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Disagreements or outright disputes about estates are, unfortunately, not uncommon. While there are many reasons why someone might bring litigation against an estate or Trust, one of the biggest sources of contention and strife is actually between step-children and their step-mother or step-father.
Unfortunately, not every blended family is “Brady Bunch” perfect. Sometimes, estate disputes are based on misunderstandings about how the deceased parent/spouse wanted their assets to pass. In other cases, a surviving spouse may be influenced by outside parties or may simply act egregiously.
If you have a blended family, follow these recommendations to minimize the risk of problems and disagreements after you die:
- Work with an estate planning attorney to prepare an updated estate plan that reflects your wishes.
- Review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement accounts and other assets, to ensure they are consistent with how you want those assets to pass. Remember that beneficiary designations make assets pass independently of your Will or Trust, unless you intentionally plan to make them work together.
- Talk to your beneficiaries and heirs about your wishes. Many disputes arise because children from a previous relationship believe their parent intended to leave assets to them outright but assets were instead left to their step-father or step-mother. Explain your intentions so everyone is on the same page.
- Things can – and do – change over time. If your intentions for the management and distribution of your estate change, let your beneficiaries know about your updated plans.
Of course, your beneficiaries and heirs don’t have a legal right to know anything about your estate until your death. However, having open and honest communications and being transparent about your wishes now can help save time, money and frustration on all sides after your death.
Talk to your estate planning attorney about the best way to meet your goals and minimize the chances of your estate becoming embroiled in costly disputes.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation to review your own documents. No matter what your estate planning requirements may be, we are here for you. We will carefully listen to you to create an estate plan that meets your wishes and needs.