Will Your Surviving Spouse Disinherit Your Children

I have written before that if you are part of a blended family, making an outright distribution to your spouse may result in your children from your prior marriage being disinherited.

Why? Because when you make an outright distribution to your spouse, your spouse has the power to do whatever he or she wants with the inherited assets, which may include leaving assets to your children, or not.

Most people assume that if you are part of a nuclear family, the risk is lower. Surely, your children’s other parent would prioritize your children and make sure they are provided for.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

I received a note recently from someone whose mother died a year ago at a young age. Her parents had been married for thirty-three years and they had three children together. Her father was his wife’s sole heir.

Shortly after her mother’s death, her father started a new relationship. He is now in the process of selling all his property and moving far away with his new girlfriend.

She said:

My mother would not in a million years have thought my father would do something like this. As a mother myself I would think that a parent would first ensure their children versus a new relationship.

Would her mother have planned differently if she had anticipated her husband’s new relationship? She may have if providing for her children was a priority.

For example, rather than making an outright distribution of assets to her husband, she might have left those assets in trust for him, permitting funds to be used for his health, maintenance and support but dictating that any remaining assets would pass to her children after he died.

Or perhaps, she might have made a bequest of part of her assets to her children immediately upon her death so ensure that they received something from her, rather than being used to support her husband’s new relationship.

Making an outright distribution to your spouse involves risks regardless of whether you are part of a blended or nuclear family.

Estate planning for families can be complicated. An attorney can explain your options, the ramification of your choices, and customize an estate plan to address your needs.

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