Your estate could go to someone else’s kids? In marriage, it’s ’til death do us part. It’s important to realize that on death you actually will part!

Topics covered:

  • If you and your spouse have a blended family, each of you bringing children into the relationship, your spouse could cut your children from their will after you’ve passed away?

Till death do us part.

That’s commitment.

A natural corollary is that what’s yours becomes mine. And mine yours.

Often there are stepchildren. We embrace them as our own.

We often make “mirror” wills. If I die first, everything goes to you. And vice versa.

We readily agree to add that when the second of us dies, whatever’s left goes to the children.

It’s a beautiful thing.

And a solid estate plan. Until you really think about what happens after one of us dies.

On death, we part.

One of us is dead. The other continues on.

Each of us would want the other to be happy.

A period of utter devastation is expected. But please pick yourself up and carry on with as fulfilling a life as is possible.

Small solace, but our combined life savings will help.

Maybe the one left behind will be so lucky as to find someone new.

Your children, and stepchildren, are protective. The new love interest doesn’t own a home and has nothing of savings. Are you being taken advantage of?

But their free spirit is what attracts you to them. You’ve scrimped and saved your whole life. You’ve now found someone who will help you use that wealth to best enjoy your twilight years.

They are so special to you that they become your new life partner.

Till death do us part.

What’s yours becomes theirs.

And two families unite.

Not so easily with adult children, though.  

Your new life partner’s children fully embrace you. But your children and stepchildren are more reserved.

Unfortunate as it might be, expectations might be playing a part.

You and your first life partner were savers. Your children and stepchildren grew up without extravagances. Over time, they began looking at their parents’ wealth as something that would eventually pass to them.

Your new relationship throws that out the window.

Your new life partner is a spender. Their children grew up with all the trips and toys.

Your children and stepchildren are seeing that not only is your estate about to be plundered by a new lavish living, but also divided in two because your new estate plan will include your new life partner and their children.

Don’t you hate expectations?

Not just their expectations, but the expectations of your first life partner.

They expected that their children would benefit from their life’s work and sacrifices.

They’re particularly concerned (to the extent a deceased person can be concerned!) about the child they brought into your relationship: your stepchild.

You had embraced them as your own. But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since your first life partner’s passing.

And blood is thicker than water.

You redo your will. Like before, you do mirror wills.

Everything goes to your life partner. If your life partner dies first, then everything goes to your combined broods.

But you leave out your now-estranged stepchild.

Can your stepchild challenge your will? I’ll cover this in other columns, but unlikely in these circumstances.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves.

It’s not your will that matters.

You and your new life-partner arrange your financial affairs so that everything is jointly owned and passes automatically to the survivor of the two of you when one of you dies.

And you die first.

After a suitable period of mourning, your new life partner changes their will, cutting out your children.

Can your children challenge that will? Unlikely in these circumstances.

The life savings you and your first life-partner had scrimped and saved to amass end up in the hands of someone else’s kids and grandkids.

Can you guard against this outcome?

Yes, but not with a “simple will”. And it’s complicated. I will discuss mechanisms in my next column.

My columns are never a substitute for a fully informed consultation with a lawyer.

If you’ve been cut out of a will in circumstances similar to the story I told, or any circumstances for that matter, consult with an estate litigation lawyer to find out your rights. I can help you find one if you like.

And if this column reads like a nightmare you want to avoid, please consult with a lawyer for estate planning advice. My future columns will give you options and ideas, but their careful consideration and implementation require a lawyer’s helping hand.

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