Crafting effective Florida estate planning is critical to ensuring a person’s end-of-life wishes are honored. This includes, but is not limited to, health care considerations and making sure loved ones receive their inheritance as you intend. Without a legally secure plan, any number of problems can arise. At a minimum, estate decisions will be determined according to the Florida probate laws and there is no guarantee things can turn out the way you envisioned.
Estate plans should also be geared to fit each family’s unique situation. What works for a lifelong married couple is typically not the best design for blended families, or couples who have children from different marriages. For example, without legally protecting biological children, a deceased person’s surviving spouse could spend assets that were meant for them. A surviving spouse could also pass on the deceased’s assets to his or her own children upon death, thus effectively disinheriting the first spouse’s biological family.
A revocable trust is one way to avoid such problems. Revocable trusts are legal documents that direct the distribution of assets placed in them upon one’s passing, but can become irrevocable at the death of the trust creator. Unlike a last will and testament, which takes effect only after you die, a trust can be managed during one’s lifetime, generate income, and side-step court intervention in favor of a handpicked trustee.
Blended family spouses could separate their assets while alive and establish different irrevocable trust agreements. Through this type of planning they could provide financial stability for the surviving spouse, either by placing some or all of the deceased’s assets in trust. Assets not placed in trust could be expressly bequeathed to the surviving spouse or to biological children, or perhaps all assets could be placed in trust with both the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children named as co-trustees.
Choosing trustees, or people who manage the trust, is crucial. You may not want your surviving spouse to have the sole ability to withdraw assets from a trust as he or she may end up disenfranchising the deceased’s relatives. Bequeathing some assets to biological children upon passing can help hedge against a surviving spouse draining the trust during his or her lifetime.
These are just a few considerations regarding the complexities of estate planning for blended families. We know just how critical good Florida estate planning is. Do not wait to contact us to schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns and create an estate plan that will protect your legacy.