Why Same-Sex and Blended Families Need Wills
If you don't have a will, there are default rules that govern how your assets get distributed, called "intestate" rules. Those default rules probably do not reflect your wishes, and a same-sex or mixed family should pay special attention to make sure they control exactly who inherits, and who doesn't inherit, their assets. Here are a few issues and misconceptions about wills.
"I only want my spouse to inherit everything, so I don't need a will"
With the default Connecticut intestate rules, your spouse may not inherit the whole estate. In fact, your spouse will only be entitled to the first $100,000 and then have to share a percentage of the rest with either your children, or with your parents. While that may sound reasonable, if any real property exists, it creates a nightmare in probate when titling assets correctly and added complexity where your children are underage. Still, if you have no children, your parents may inherit some of your estate, including portions of your home. If any of that seems weird, you should make sure to start thinking about estate planning.
In many same-sex families, and blended families in general, there are children from prior relationships with surviving exes. In Connecticut, if there is a situation where there are children "not of the surviving spouse," your spouse no longer inherits the "first $100,000" and instead only gets a percentage (50%). The other half is split among your children. This creates a problem for even the smallest estates in probate. If, however, any of your children are underage, the share they receive from your estate will probably be held until the child is old enough by their surviving biological parent. That means that it is likely that your ex may end up responsible for holding the money for your children and coordinating with your spouse, which invites complication and conflict. If you want to leave everything to your spouse, you should sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss the best way to accomplish that.
What if something happens to both of you?
Couples spend a lot of time together and there is always a chance that something happens to one of you happens to both you and your spouse, together. In Connecticut, if you don't have a will, your children would inherit, which makes sense. However, as discussed above, in a blended family your minor children's share will likely be managed by their surviving biological parent. It gets somewhat more complicated if there are no children, as your parents would inherit, and if you have no surviving parents or children, your siblings and half-siblings would inherit. That may not be the plan you want.
The default intestate rules in Connecticut don't always make sense and invite complication, conflict, and unnecessary exposure to the probate court. With wills and trusts, a skilled estate planning attorney can make sure your assets will be distributed exactly as you want them to be. Click here to contact us to discuss possibilities.