There is no step by step guide for every estate plan in Texas or anywhere else. Since everyone’s family situation is different, estate planning must reflect those differences. Some families might have significant assets and minor children. Others have a family business that requires intricate assessments as to how it will be passed along. Distribution of assets and determining beneficiaries could be complicated by internal disputes.
Regardless of the case, there are basic factors that should be part of the estate planning process. This is especially true for blended families. While having a will is critical, a blended family requires a deeper analysis as to how the testator wants his or her assets allocated and care to be given to minors. There are three factors that inevitably arise: having a legal guardianship; how to pass assets to minor children; and the division of the estate.
When one partner to a marriage dies intestate — without a will — and the couple has a child together, the child will generally remain in the care of the surviving parent. For couples who have parted ways and have a problematic relationship or no relationship at all, the testator might want the child to stay with the stepparent. A will must address this by naming that person as a guardian. There are legal issues that might arise such as the biological parent contesting the will. It is important to know how to approach this when crafting the estate plan.
With blended families, detailing precisely how assets will be allocated can be difficult. A trust could be preferable when there are minor children. If a person chooses to execute a trust, a trustee must be named to oversee the assets in that trust. Since blended families frequently have people who have no connection to one another, naming the trustee requires careful planning.
Finally, when dividing assets and property, the language in one’s will or trust should be as clear as possible to avoid confusion. If the document is unclear and there is foundation for dispute, the entire document and its objectives can be undone leaving the family with costly legal battles. Common law relationships can be a concern as Texas has different estate planning rules for those who are unmarried.
Because estate planning has no blueprint and every case is different, those with seemingly uncommon family situations can seek legal help. A law firm that understands all aspects of estate planning from the creation of the document, to identifying beneficiaries, to probate can provide guidance and help from the start.