When a person passes on without leaving a clear estate plan - or any estate plan, at all - the issue must be resolved through the difficult, stressful, and often emotional legal process known as probate. A discovery process will need to be undertaken to uncover the entirety of the late individual's property and assets, after which their estate will be divided and distributed to all relatives, heirs, and beneficiaries according under the supervision of the court.
This process can be extremely problematic when it comes to blended families. With more than 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and nearly 70% of divorcees remarrying (according the US Census Bureau), more than half the population of households formed from remarriage include children under 18 years old. That being said...there may a LOT of those relatives, heirs and beneficiaries for the court to which the court could assign assets.
On April 30, 2013, in a recent San Jose court case, a judge ruled that the two young daughters of a one-time prostitute have a valid claim to the estate of a slain millionaire. The judge further stated that there is clear and convincing evidence that the girls are heirs and entitled to his inheritance. The grizzly case involves murder, prostitutes, wives & ex-wives, as well as other, adult children. Without a clear estate plan, this battle will play out in courts for some time, grabbing national attention due to the affluent location of Silicon Valley.
Whether your divorce and remarriage have been amicable and all parties are civil, it is critical to identify a clear and concise plan for assets upon marriage, divorce, remarriage, births, deaths, etc. , so that relatives and other individuals can minimize disputes over who should receive what. Excellent estate planning could avoid the unpleasantry involved with probate by explicitly stating who receives every part of the deceased individual's estate.
Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC has served the Orange County area for more than two decades. Our multi-faceted professional corporation has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning as well as probate, helping individuals and families prepare their estate for the future and ensuring that their desires are met after death. Both estate planning and probate are sensitive areas for most, which is why each of our Orange County estate planning attorneys will provide understanding counsel throughout your legal process. A well-drafted estate plan could save your loved ones from unnecessary stress in the future, so do not wait to retain the legal assistance you need to get things organized as soon as possible. Fill out the case evaluation form below to send us your request to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.
Additional Reading: Estate Planning for the future of a Blended Family