If you’re in a second marriage with a blended family, then your kids from a prior marriage could be disinherited after you die. As an example, let’s say Wife Wendy and Husband Harry are married and have two daughters together. Later on in life, Husband Harry dies. After many years of grieving, Wendy later re-marries her new husband Bob. So Wife Wendy and New Husband Bob decide to have a child together, little Jimmy.
Fast forward in time and now Wendy’s daughters from her prior marriage are 15 years old and little Jimmy is 5 years old. Now between Wife Wendy and New Husband Bob, they’re like many married couples and they jointly own all of their assets together. So on their bank accounts and on the deed to their home will show them jointly owning their assets at Bob and Wendy, joint owners with right of survivorship.
So when Wife Wendy dies without an estate plan in place, all of those jointly owned assets that Wendy and Bob owned together (like their home, bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, and retirement accounts) are automatically now owned by Bob in Bob’s name only. And after Wendy died, Bob never remarried, and then 20 years later, Bob dies owning all of those assets without any estate plan in place. So now, all of the assets Bob owns go to Bob’s biological children or legally adopted children.
Remember, Bob only has ONE biological child and that’s little Jimmy, who’s now 25 years old. Bob never legally adopted Wendy’s daughter’s from a prior marriage who are now 35 years old. That means 25-year-old Little Jimmy just inherited 100% of Bob’s $1,000,000 estate. So do you think he’s going to exercise his legal right to keep all of the $1,000,000 inheritance to himself or do you think he’s going to split the $1,000,000 three ways with Wendy’s daughters from a prior marriage that he rarely spoke to or grew up with due to the 10 year age difference between them?
You see, it’s not just keeping your family out of probate court after you die, but we also need to make sure we keep your family out of conflict between each other after you die too!
One way you could solve for this is that Wendy and Bob create a joint revocable living trust that says after Wendy dies, a portion of jointly held assets and all of her separate assets will go into an irrevocable trust that Bob can benefit from during his lifetime so there are enough resources there to keep him comfortable in the lifestyle he was accustomed to. Then, after Bob dies, any and all of Wendy’s separate assets in that irrevocable trust will go to her two daughters from a prior marriage and the balance will go to Jimmy. Or it could very well say that all remaining assets in the estate will be split between the three children evenly.
In summary, if you’re in a second marriage with kids from a prior marriage, then your kids will be disinherited unless you have a comprehensive estate plan in place to ensure that all children from the prior marriage and the current marriage will inherit your assets after you’re gone. If you’re in a blended family and you want to make sure that you put the right estate plan in place so that your kids from a prior marriage would never be disinherited like this, then feel free to book an initial 15 min call with me — For Free — at a time that works for you and your spouse to a conversation about how we can help you do just that.
This article is a service of estate planning attorney Elliott Feldman and the Elliott Feldman Law Group. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Prosperity Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Prosperity Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 planning session at no charge.