On occasion, I like to tell cautionary stories of real-life situations that can be avoided with some pre-planning. This situation is one that can happen to any blended family.

We recently had a widowed woman come to our office, she shared one child with her husband who had recently passed away and her husband had two kids from a prior marriage. This woman and her husband had been married for about 30 years and unfortunately, they never established any kind of an estate plan. Now in this situation most married couples assume that all assets will be passed along to the surviving spouse and then distributed to loved ones once they’ve both passed away. In our story, the wife experienced an unexpected bump.

The house that the wife had lived in for the last 30+ years was titled solely in her now-deceased husband’s name. Per California law, the house is now set to be divided between the surviving spouse and the three children and it will also need to go through Probate. It’s safe to assume that this is probably not the result that the husband would have wanted. The surviving spouse is now not only dealing with the difficult loss of her husband but also a court proceeding and a move.

In this situation, many things could have happened differently but due to a lack of planning this surviving spouse is dealing with a mess. If you are married and assume everything will pass on seamlessly to your spouse it’s pertinent to take the time to make a plan and ensure that is what will happen.

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