Blended Families Need Careful Estate Planning

 In Learning Center

When planning for a blended families, it is important to keep a few things in mind. In Ohio, a surviving spouse has certain rights at the death of their spouse. These rights include the ability to take certain vehicles outside of probate, a superior right to administer an estate if the deceased spouse did not have a will, and the right to “take against the will.” The right to take against the will allows a surviving spouse to inherit almost what he or she would inherit if the deceased spouse passed without a will.

When designing an estate plan, it isn’t always easy to determine how to equally divide assets between a spouse and children. It may be difficult to anticipate what everyone’s future needs will be. If the plan is to fairly treat a surviving spouse and surviving children, you need to make sure that your attorney plans for the possibility that a surviving spouse could take against the will. Planning for this possibility can avoid a lot of headaches down the road.

There are some default measures that do not necessarily favor a surviving spouse in Ohio estate law. For example, if two people purchase real estate in Ohio, the default provision is that they do not have a survivorship deed. This means that they each own 50 percent of the house. If one of them passes away before selling the home, the deceased owner’s interest passes under that person’s will or under the Ohio intestacy laws. The ownership does not automatically pass to the surviving spouse.

Although the “non-survivorship” ownership structure is a default in Ohio, a couple (married or not) may still purchase a house and set up the survivorship ownership structure. This can be an unintended way that someone changes their estate plan. The deed that someone gets is based on what they asked for. Sometimes this is on the advice of a realtor or title agent.

If you’ve purchased a home since your estate plan was last updated, you should check in with me. I can make sure that your estate plan meets these considerations for blended families.