It’s no secret that the divorce rate in the US has continued to skyrocket over the years.
Now, some of you reading this might be single, divorced or part of a blended family, and even if you’re not, given the statistics, there is a good chance that you or someone you know could end up in one of these circumstances. We aren’t trying to be a killjoy, we just want you to be prepared for the unexpected, and ultimately make sure your exact wishes are carried out, no matter your situation. Let’s examine the challenges that single parents, divorced parents and blended families can face without a carefully designed estate plan.
For starters, single and divorced parents may not have a partner to care for their children if something should happen to them. The guardianship or custody of children whose parents are divorced usually falls to the ex-spouse, as long as he or she is the biological parent. However, in the rare case of that individual being unable or unwilling to care for the children, then another guardian would be appointed by the court.
Secondly, when assets are distributed outright to minor children being cared for by an ex-spouse (or a step-parent appointed as a guardian), they may have control over how the inheritance of the children is managed.
Additionally, if you are part of a blended family and die without an estate plan, half of your estate could go to your new spouse and the other half could be allocated in equal portions to your biological children. But, what if you helped raise your spouse’s children from a previous marriage but never formally adopted them? Unfortunately, given the way the law works, they would not receive any inheritance.
Similarly, if you have adult children from a prior marriage and minor children with your new spouse, you may want to provide more financial support to your minor children than provided by state guidelines.
And lastly, if you’ve remarried you may be unintentionally disinheriting your children from a prior marriage if you own property jointly with your new spouse and you pre-decease him or her. A proper estate plan can help address matters of property ownership among blended families and ensure that your children’s inheritance is preserved.
Now don’t worry—all of the above scenarios can be avoided, and your exact wishes will be carried out as long as you have proper planning in place.