Why is a will or trust important when people have children from previous marriages? – Portland, Oregon

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The Estate Planning attorneys with Nay & Friedenberg discuss different options for a blended family’s estate plan.

Not having a will or living trust can create a lot of conflict in the family. If a married individual with children from a prior relationship dies without a will, half of his or her estate goes to the surviving spouse and the other half goes to the decedent’s biological children.

With a will or living trust, you have other options:

1. You and your spouse can execute reciprocal wills, leaving everything to the surviving spouse and then to the children of both spouses. However, when one of you dies, the survivor is not obligated to follow the plan and can write a new will leaving everything to whomever he or she pleases. This can create family conflicts in the event of remarriage. To prevent this, consider signing a contract agreeing that neither of you will change the provisions of the wills.

2. You can bequeath to your spouse a life interest in assets. A common scenario is a provision that says your surviving spouse can continue to live in the family home, but upon his or her death, the house goes to your children. Or you may choose to set up a trust to provide income for your spouse. On her death, the assets remaining in the trust will then pass to your kids.

3. You can bypass your spouse and leave everything to your children. If you plan to do this, you should sign a prenuptial agreement to make it clear that you both understand you are overriding the “spousal elective share” rule, which says that a surviving spouse can file a claim for part of the probated estate, even if the will leaves him or her out.

4. You can craft a trust that is funded at death. It can allocate distribution of income and/or principal to your spouse and children. A very common example is a trust that leaves all income to the spouse, allows the principal to be distributed to the spouse in certain situations, and distributes what remains at the spouse’s death to the adult children of one or both spouses. This type of trust is often used when the further remarriage of the surviving spouse is a possibility.

An experienced estate planning attorney makes all the difference in making sure you have a proper inheritance plan for your blended family’s needs. Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.