A recent article in the Boston Globe pointed up the type of unintended consequence that can result from the failure to draw up an estate plan. The person featured in the article is likely to have to move out of her home of many years because her step-father failed to make any arrangements for her to inherit it, so it seems likely that it is going to pass to distant relatives in a foreign country. It is not clear from the article why he failed to plan – no matter – the point is that you should take it as a cautionary tale if you have step-children that you want to provide for in your estate plan.
Another issue is that many people, even in second marriages, want everything to go to their spouses when they die. The potential complicating factor in those cases is that if the member of the couple who dies first has children of his or her own, that person's biological children may be at risk of not inheriting anything if the surviving spouse either dies without an estate plan or fails to provide for his or her stepchildren in what estate plan there is.
As has been discussed in other blog posts, prenuptial agreements can help these situations, but if you don't have one, it isn't too late to make to draw up an estate plan. It may be as simple as adding children to a deed (although, there may be long-term care planning problems with that). You can also provide for your children in a will. Perhaps the best way to make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes is to set up a trust.
If you fit in this category and you aren't sure whether your current estate plan provides for everyone the way you want it to, give us a call and we'd be happy to review your current documents or draw up something new.