Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C.

Careful estate planning can prevent battles in blended families

Having an estate plan is important, but keeping it up-to-date throughout significant changes in your life like marriage and divorce is essential. That's particularly important if you have remarried after a divorce or death of a spouse and you have children from your previous marriage.

Some of our readers may remember the troubling story of Robin Williams' widow and his children from previous marriages after his suicide. They went to court to battle over some of his possessions after his death. Williams had designated how his properties and assets would be divided. However, the kids were fighting with their stepmother over sentimental items like a watch and a bicycle that the couple got on their honeymoon.

With good planning and a detailed estate plan, you can help ensure that your surviving spouse will receive the inheritance you intend for him or her without the stress, time and expense of fighting for it with stepchildren or other family members.

Often a revocable living trust is a better means of doing this than a will because it's more difficult to contest. However, an experienced Pennsylvania estate planning attorney can recommend the best option given your particular family situation.

Whatever documents you choose to include in your estate plan, there are some measures you can take to help prevent children or others from trying to get what you've intended for your spouse. You can include a "no contest" clause. This prevents anyone who files a lawsuit challenging your estate plan from inheriting anything.

Some people choose to give their surviving spouse something called a "limited power of appointment." This can allow that spouse to prevent a child or anyone else from receiving anything from the estate if they seem determined to cause trouble (even if they don't file a lawsuit).

Whatever you decide to do, it's generally best to let your family members know what you have designated so they won't be surprised later on. Many people, understandably, don't relish the idea of dealing with the family drama that may ensue when they do this. However, it's best that you have the opportunity to explain your decisions while you're still here. This can prevent even more drama after you're gone.

Source: Credit.com, "How to Keep Your Kids From Fighting Over Their Step-Parent’s Inheritance Advertiser Disclosure," Brad Wiewel, April 14, 2016

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