Families come in all shapes and sizes. The traditional image – Mom, Dad, 2 kids – is being challenged more and more as couples are delaying marriage, choosing not to have children, or starting new families with children from a previous marriage. Since no two families are alike – I can confidently tell you as a San Fernando Valley estate planning lawyer that no two legal plans should be the same, either.
When estate laws were created in this country, they were based on a more traditional family structure that does not meet the needs of most modern families today. So, without a personalized estate plan that overrides these “default” state laws, you risk leaving out important people in your life.
Let me give you an example. Perhaps you are re-married but have kids from a previous relationship. If you suddenly die without a legal plan in place, your assets (including any money/property you may have had before you were remarried) would follow the state’s order of succession and pass to your new spouse. The new spouse is not required to share his or her inheritance with your children and everything that you had hoped to leave them someday could be lost.
Or, perhaps you live with an unmarried partner. The house is in your partner’s name but you’ve spent years contributing to the bills, the maintenance and general upkeep of the house. If your partner suddenly passed away, the state would not care about any of that. The house would go your partner’s kids, parents or long-lost next of kin before you are EVER considered to inherit the property!
To ensure that all your loved ones are provided for, it is best to create your own unique estate plan that protects everyone you care about, regardless of your technical or legal relationship with them. Again, it should be noted that by choosing NOT to do an estate plan, you are subject to traditional-family-based state and federal laws. In essence, even if you choose not to do a will or a trust, you have an estate plan anyway.
The good news is that there are many ways of configuring your estate plan so that it works for each member of your family. To begin crafting a plan that addresses your family dynamics and personal situation, be sure to speak to a qualified estate lawyer in San Fernando Valley. Our Encino lawyers can help you create an estate plan that is as unique as you are. To set up a consultation today call us at (818) 905-6088.