Updated: Dec 22, 2022
How To Ensure Your Blended Family Is Set For The Future?
When someone dies without a last will and testament, the default legal process is to distribute their property to the closest legal kin. This means it will go to your spouse and children first, then to your parents and grandchildren.
However, this doesn't consider the blended family units in California. The same concern applies to other family members, foster kids, and charities you might want to donate to when you die.
So, let's look at the benefits of estate planning for blended families, as advised by our prescreened Los Angeles estate planning attorneys.
How Does Estate Planning Affect Blended Families In Los Angeles?
Consider this typical example of a blended family: spouses who have children from previous marriages may have unadopted stepchildren. They could take care of the kids like their own, but it still won't qualify unadopted stepchildren as legal heirs if they pass away.
If you pass away without a will or any form of estate planning, the priority of who gets your assets is determined by California's Intestate Succession:
Heirs-At-Law. Includes children and spouse. Grandchildren will only be considered if the previous two aren't there.
Collateral Heirs. Assets will go to siblings, parents, grandparents, and other family members if heirs-at-law aren't available or refuse to receive them.
If there aren't even collateral heirs to be found, the courts will post a notice (often in newspapers) to find the next of kin. If no one is found, stepchildren can be considered estate beneficiaries.
Having a will and a living trust helps you divide your assets as you wish. Consult with a Los Angeles estate planning lawyer to help you draft and execute your will.
Some Estate Planning Tips For Blended Families In California
While adopting stepchildren can solve a few problems for blended families in California, it still won't consider foster children, charities, and other potential beneficiaries who don't count as default heirs.
Not to mention, there are reasons why stepchildren don't get officially adopted. For example, some stepchildren come into people's lives as adults, while some stepparents pass away unexpectedly.
So, the best option is estate planning for blended families. This will allow you to ensure the right people become beneficiaries and have authority over your assets as you wish.
Here are a few crucial documents you can draft with the help of a Los Angeles estate attorney:
1. Last Will And Testament
A will is a legal document that details your deathbed preferences. For example, it could contain details like:
How property should be allocated
How to pay off debts
Child custody and care
The care of pets
Choosing an estate executor
Wills for blended families is crucial. It addresses concerns discussed in this blog post, enabling you to leave portions of your assets to people who otherwise wouldn't qualify in default succession.
A trust, which enables a trustee to hold assets for the benefit of particular beneficiaries, is a fiduciary agreement. In that they specify how assets will be dispersed after your death, how debts will be paid, and how spouses, children, and pets will be cared for, trusts and wills are pretty similar, but they also serve additional purposes, such as:
Directing your resources toward a specific goal
Avoiding probate and some of the accompanying fees
Preserving a particular person's future (such as a spouse or child)
There are numerous trusts, and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer in California may help you draft the best trust for blended families. After all, every family has its own arrangement and dynamics, so go in to consult a Los Angeles estate planning attorney to help you.
3. Power Of Attorney
Using a power of attorney, you can designate a person or other fiduciary to handle your affairs if you cannot do so. Your agent acting under your power of attorney will deal with non-trust matters, unlike the successor trustee who deals with trust matters.
Your agent may have the following authority:
Property management and monetary judgment
Because of the flexibility of these documents, you can grant your agent any amount of authority. Your and your family's unique needs can be considered while drafting your power of attorney.
4. Estate Administration
It's advisable to leave the intricate task of managing your estate after death to an experienced California estate attorney. Debts must be settled once a person passes away, and the last accounts must be closed.
The estate executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions laid out in the estate planning agreements and, if necessary, submitting the required documentation to the California court system.
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