Elder Law Issues For Blended Families
If you're part of a stepfamily, estate planning lawyers can help you determine who will inherit what when either you or your spouse passes away. Although you may consider your stepchildren truly yours, most states don't. Estate planning attorneys can take you through the maze of elder laws that affect your family's estate.
Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce and many divorced individuals remarry, blending families together that may include offspring from previous marriages as well as new children. While many stepparents consider the kids their spouse brings to the new marriage to be the same as their own, the legal ramifications are far different. This is why it's crucial for individuals with blended families to talk to estate planning attorneys rather than assuming that, when they pass away, all of their daughters, sons and step kids will be treated equally. There are a variety of elder law issues concerning who has the right to inherit as well as issues such as who becomes owner of the house when there are kids and step kids involved.
No Will May Mean Your Surviving Spouse And Your Descendants Will Be At Odds
We always hope that stepfamilies continue to love and support each other if one parent passes away, but this doesn't always happen. You may also assume that if you die, your spouse will automatically get the house, even if it is in your name only. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. If a man passes away without a will and his name is the only one on the deed to the house, the repercussions can be dramatic. The courts may divide the marital home between the wife and the deceased's natural offspring, creating a situation where one or the other would have to buy out the other shares of the home.
If a husband does leave the house to his wife in his will, she should be protected because she is sole owner, but this could mean that his children won't ever get the chance to own the family home. The stepmother could later die and leave the house to her own family, effectively cutting the father's own children out of any chance to inherit. Estate planning attorneys can help you navigate the treacherous waters of inheritance and develop a solid plan that won't leave anyone out in the cold.
Who Is In Charge?
A very common elder law scenario with blended families is the discord created when you or your spouse suffer a severe illness, need help with decisions, or are incapacitated. Once again, your step kids may be left out of any decisions if you haven't specified in an Advance Directive or living will. If you designate your spouse, your grown children won't be able to stop any procedures she chooses. On the flip side, if you designate your birth children as your guardians or give them power of attorney, they will be able to make decisions without having to consult with your wife. Having too many people involved in making crucial decisions can lead to delays in medical care or worse, so be sure you outline the details with special attention to elder law issues in your state.
Estate Planning Attorneys Can Structure The Appropriate Estate Plan
Even if you've raised your stepchildren from a very young age, unless you've adopted them, they aren't considered your legal heirs. If you want to leave anything to your spouse's children, you'll either have to adopt them, which isn't usually feasible if the other parent is somehow in the picture, or you'll need to specifically mention them in your will so that they can inherit. A properly written will or trust can specify who all should inherit a portion of your estate and what each person should inherit. To clarify the issue, always refer to each heir by name, including all of your own children as well as your stepdaughters and stepsons.
Estate planning attorneys may also suggest setting up trusts for the kids from both marriages so that you have some control over when and how the funds are released to them. If at least some of your children are minors, a trust can be established to cover the costs of raising them after you're gone. The trust can indicate who should be in charge of the money in the trust until the children come of age and even who will be the guardians for the children if both parents die.
There are numerous options for making sure all members of your blended family are treated fairly. Discussing these options with estate planning attorneys experienced in elder law is the best way to start; they can address your concerns and may even come up with some additional suggestions for making your estate work for everyone.
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Peck Bloom's Chicago estate planning attorneys can help you create an estate that protects your heirs. Experience and familiarity with elder law in Chicago means Peck Bloom's estate planning attorneys in Chicago are always in demand. Visit the firm's website to chat with a live representative today.