If you have children by a former marriage and have since remarried, you and your spouse need to agree on the future distribution of your property. Traditionally, a husband and wife are married once and leave everything to the other, and upon the death of the surviving spouse, the property passes to their children. This traditional approach generally does not work for divorcees and blended families.
Consider these illustrations:
Jim, age 55, is divorced and has two children by his first marriage. Julie, age 49, is divorced and has one child by her first marriage. Jim and Julie marry at a time when their children are all adults. Jim predeceases Julie and in his Will leaves everything to Julie. Subsequently, Julie dies without a Will. By law, all of Julie’s property (including the property she inherited from Jim) goes to her child (Jim’s children inherit nothing). Likely, Jim did not want his children left out, but such is the case.
Assume that Jim predeceased Julie and did not leave behind a Will. In that situation, Jim’s two children and Julie will each share equally in Jim’s estate (i.e., 1/3 to each of them). Perhaps, Jim would have liked for Julie to have the benefit of his assets (such as interest from Jim’s retirement, etc.) for as long as she is alive, and upon Julie’s death he wanted his children to receive everything. Jim’s wishes would not be carried out in this circumstance, because he did not leave behind a Will that expressed them.
The problems that can arise with the estates of divorcees and blended families are too numerous to illustrate, but can be avoided with proper planning.