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Wills critical with blended families

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Do you have stepchildren? Does your spouse have a Will? If not, then you’ve got a big problem!!!

Blended families have become more commonplace over the past several decades. Unfortunately, blended families have confusing rights and obligations when it comes to Texas inheritance laws. Spouses with children from previous relationships or previous marriages can create potential conflict for those expecting an inheritance. These complex family situations can lead to tremendous headaches for the surviving spouse should you fail to make an estate plan. A Will is critical because a blended family can avoid these complex estate planning issues entirely by simply executing a Will.

Absent a Will, the distribution of assets will be distributed based upon the intestate succession process that the Texas legislature has been established. That means if there is no Will and there is a surviving spouse, what the surviving spouse will inherit depends on if there are children. If the decedent’s children are also children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will inherit all the community property and an interest in the separate property. However, the children will inherit most of the separate property.

On the other hand, if there are children of the decedent that are not the children of the surviving spouse, the children will inherit most of the estate, and the spouse will inherit some interest, but not a large part of the deceased spouse’s estate. So that means the stepchildren will probably co-own the home with their stepparent. Let me say that again, under Texas law, if there are stepchildren, then any property acquired during the marriage (community property) would be divided with one-half going to the children and one-half going to the surviving spouse. It doesn’t matter how old the stepchildren are; they will inherit their deceased parent’s share of the property, if there is a surviving stepparent.

Now there is an easy way to avoid these landmines; create a valid Will. The solution to this stepchildren problem is to simply sit down with an estate planning attorney to develop a plan that will allow you to allocate your assets among your spouse, your biological children, and your stepchildren, should you choose to include them. Then, to protect your assets and, more importantly, to protect your family, you should draft a Will or trust. This plan will ensure that your wishes are followed, and your spouse is not fighting with your children over your estate.

Paul B. Owens is an attorney practicing in the areas of Probate and Estate Planning law. He serves in a number of other capacities, including on the Board of Directors for the CASA Helotes Senior Center in Helotes Texas. He can be reached at his office in Helotes at 210- 695-51 JO or at www.PaulOwensLaw.com