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Blended Families Fight the Most in Probate Court

Posted on Fri Jun 28, 2019, on Estate Planning

Estate Planning Lawyer

Though having a second chance at marriage is a wonderful thing, keep in mind that Blended Families Fight the Most in Probate Court.

The Pattern.

It is a common fact pattern. Dad and 2nd Wife have an estate. They do not prepare an estate plan. Dad dies first, happens to own most of the assets, and 2nd Wife gets 100%. Dad has 3 children from his previous marriage, and all 3 children are wondering if they get any part of his estate. They also are wondering if they can at least look through some of his personal items in case they would want to pass it down to their own families. 2nd Wife refuses to let them in the house.  She ends up with all of the assets. And when she passes, it ends up going to her three children. Nothing goes to Dad’s children.

They say this is the most common fact pattern that is currently litigated in probate court, or Trust court cases. It is an uphill battle for the children. If Dad had everything going to his wife, either by beneficiary designation or by joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, then it’s likely a lost cause.

Don’t Delay.

It’s important for Dad to think through the circumstances prior to an illness, or possible dementia, and decide what he thinks is the best way to distribute his assets. It’s possible that he meant to leave assets to his children and grandchildren, but he didn’t realize that everything was going to his spouse. Perhaps he is uncomfortable bringing it up to his wife, because she is expecting to get 100% of the assets? It’s possible that he already talked to an attorney on his own but never got to actually signing the documents.  

Have a Plan, Known to All.

In any event, blended families are very common in the United States. It’s probably more common than a nuclear family. I see many couples who choose to get married but purposely keep their finances separate. They then prepare an estate plan with clear instructions as to what happens to the assets upon death or disability. The families then know where they stand, and what they are entitled to.

Joint Children.

Of course, it also depends on whether the couple has a joint child, or have been married so long that they want everything to go to each other, regardless of having children from separate marriages. There are so many circumstances and specific situations.  This is what makes this area of law interesting.

Blended Families Fight the Most in Probate Court, Will Yours?

It’s important to speak to a qualified estate planning lawyer in Rolling Meadows, IL who will run through all of the “what if” scenarios. That way the couple can make informed decisions and prepare estate planning documents that will keep the family out of court and prevent fighting after they are gone.

For more, see Klenklaw’s Article Estate Planning for the Blended Families: Everything You Need to Know.

Thanks to Bott & Associates for their insight into estate planning and blended families.

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