These days many Texas families are blended families. The process of forming a blended family is challenging but rewarding. Children from previous relationships and marriages must blend together to form one cohesive family unit. Stepparents and biological parents must work together to provide structure for the children while safeguarding their futures. For many Texas families, this means creating and drafting an estate plan.
Texas Law and Drafting an Estate Plan with a Blended Family
Blended families should speak with an experienced Houston estate planning attorney to discuss their intentions and safeguard their estate and children’s futures. Texas law is specific when it comes to dividing estates. How a Texas court will treat your estate depends on whether you die without a plan or with an estate plan.
Without an estate plan, Texas law controls how your estate is divided.
- Community Property. Texas law divides a married person’s estate between the surviving spouse and their children from another relationship. There are homestead protections that allow the surviving spouse to stay in the marital home. However, they will co-own the home with the children from her spouse’s previous relationships.
- Separate Personal Property. Texas law gives the children from a previous relationship two-thirds of all the spouse’s private personal property. This includes vehicles, jewelry, and other heirlooms.
- Separate Real Property. Texas law gives 100% of the deceased spouse’s separate real property to the children of the deceased, subject to a 1/3 life estate.
As you can imagine, Texas law does not adequately provide for the varied nuances of your new blended family. Even if you are married, your spouse’s children would not be provided for unless you draft an estate plan. Unless you specify that you want your step-children to inherit part of your estate when you die, they will be cut off from receiving anything if Texas Law is followed.
Imagine what happens to your home if you pass away without an estate plan. If Texas law is followed, your half of the home will transfer to your children. If your child is a minor, your ex-spouse would be in charge of your child’s share of your community property. This means your spouse would co-own your home with your ex.
This is typically not an ideal situation and one that can be avoided with property planning. An estate plan can ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death.
Benefits of an Estate Plan for Blended Families
- Beneficiary designation. You can designate which beneficiaries and family members receive specific assets. If you want your car to go to your son, you can make a plan for that. If you want your step-daughter to inherit your family’s jewelry, this will be reflected in the beneficiary designations.
- Avoiding conflicts. An estate plan can make sure that your loved ones understand your wishes and how the division of the estate will occur. Without an effective estate plan, your estate could become the subject of a long and painful will or trust contest. Families can become divided and at odds after your death, even in their time of grief. An estate plan minimizes this risk and allows you to control the division of your assets.
- Achieving balance. Because you determine how to divide your estate after your death, you can make sure assets are balanced accordingly. You can help provide comfort and support for your spouse, while ensuring the financial security of your children as well. This is a delicate balance, but one that is made easier by discussing it with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Contact Our Houston Estate Planning Attorneys
At Roger G. Jain & Associates, P.C., we can help you discuss your estate plan and make provisions for your blended family after your death. We know that your blended family is unique. As such, your estate plan should be as well. We want to help your loved ones avoid a lengthy and public probate. To learn more, call us at (713) 981-0600 or fill out our confidential contact form. We know that this is a difficult topic to think about, that is why we work tirelessly and efficiently to make the process easier. Call us today!