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Careful estate planning a must for blended families

The laws of inheritance, like many property laws in Washington State, have their origins in medieval England. You can see the influence of the distant past in the law's often archaic-sounding terminology and in its emphasis on bloodlines. Some of these concepts made a lot of sense in the days of Henry VIII, but not so much for families in today's Washington.

When they pass on their estates, many of today's Washington residents will have been through divorce and had children with more than one partner. Henry VIII was married a few times himself, but his was a special case. In addition, their spouses may have similar histories. When they marry and have children together, they create blended families with half-siblings and step-siblings. These situations can create legal complications for inheritance and necessitate careful estate planning.

A valid will is a good way to make sure one provides for all the members of one's family. One can also count on life insurance to help beneficiaries. However, these methods must be approached with some caution for people with blended families. All too often a person leaves an estate to a second spouse, only to have the second spouse fail to provide an inheritance to stepchildren.

One of the best ways to provide for members of a blended family is through a trust. A well-ordered trust can disperse funds to provide for many members of a family for many years to come, avoiding some of the pitfalls of a windfall inheritance.

Washington residents with all types of families, or even those with none at all, can gain a lot of peace of mind from having a solid estate plan. For today's blended families, estate planning is a must. A qualified Washington estate planning attorney can help people to understand their options.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, "Estate planning for blended families," Carissa Giebel, Jan. 27, 2014

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