Estate planning presents unique issues for blended families. Blended families are families in which one or both parents have children from a previous relationship. The problem comes when one spouse dies without an estate plan, or an old or outdated one. Generally, when spouses hold property in California (or anywhere in the US), they hold it in joint tenancy. When one joint tenant dies, the other one gets the entire property.
Can you see where we’re going with this?
When one spouse of a blended family dies, then the other spouse generally gets all the property of the couple, often by default. When it comes time to distribute the assets at the death of the second spouse, the second spouse can essentially disinherit the first spouse’s children. The second spouse, with all the property in his/her name, has control over the ultimate disposition of the property. If there is a family rift between the second spouse and the step-children, if the second spouse is negligent in creating an estate plan providing for the step-children, or in other cases, then the children of the first spouse to die can be left out in the cold.
Don’t leave your children out in the cold by failing to provide for them with an estate plan.