Estate Planning For Blended Florida Families
A significant majority of U.S. families are blended in this day and age. Marriages are more likely to end than they once were, leading to more stepfamilies and nontraditional living situations. When it comes to estate planning, however, the law has not necessarily caught up with the evolution of the ‘average’ U.S. family, and it is incumbent on the average person to do their research so they understand how best to distribute their assets when they pass on.
Take Action Yourself
There are several factors that a person in a blended family needs to consider when estate planning – most importantly, the fact that Florida law recognizes only your current spouse as family; once you have divorced a previous spouse, both they and any children of the first marriage are immediately removed from any estate planning instruments you have in place. The law actually specifically holds that any provision in your will that “affects” your former spouse will be voided upon your divorce, and your will will be read as if that spouse had predeceased you.
This means that providing for your first spouse, or for the children of that marriage, must be done affirmatively. In other words, you cannot trust the law to automatically distribute your assets evenly. Some couples avoid this problem by executing a pre- or post-nuptial agreement that establishes which assets you would like to preserve as separate property, or which you might want to grant to a specific beneficiary upon your passing. Florida law allows almost anything to be dealt with in a prenup; the only real prohibition is in disposing of anything related to child support or custody.
What Are My Options?
Since a simple will is generally insufficient to provide for a first and second family, other options will be necessary in order to provide for everyone. The most commonly utilized is a trust – specifically, a living trust, which may or may not be revocable (modifiable). A trust is an account of sorts, created by a settlor (who is very often the first initial trustee), that holds assets that are given into its keeping – though it must have a definable beneficiary such as offspring or a former spouse. A trust is “living” if the trust’s assets can still be used by the settlor during their lifetime.
Be advised that there are some certain instruments that are difficult to change from one beneficiary to another, such as a 401(k) – with most 401(k)s, one’s spouse is the automatic beneficiary, and they must consent in writing to any request from the other spouse to change the beneficiary. Some insurance policy coverage behaves in this manner as well, and it can be an unpleasant surprise when one expects to receive the proceeds of an account, but the beneficiary is a spouse or other named family member. Understanding the laws and regulations is crucial in planning your estate.
Call A Naples Estate Planning Attorney
Because blended families have become more common than ever nowadays, it is important to be aware that traditional estate planning options are not necessarily appropriate for the complex set of issues that you face. If you have questions or concerns regarding your own estate, calling a Naples estate planning attorney from Nici Law Firm may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule a consultation.