In drafting an estate plan, people must give rational and careful thought to how they want their property distributed. Then they must account for the effect that applicable laws and rules will have on that plan. Fortunately, an estate plan can be closely tailored to comply with the laws and fulfill a person's intent.
To create that plan for property distribution, a person must consider a number of factors, some that have been around for a long time and others that are rising to newfound prominence. We know from basic human experience that some people are better with money than others. Therefore, some testators may want to put measures in place that protect less financially responsible beneficiaries. Trusts can help accomplish this goal by doling out money in increments.
Divorce is nothing new, but it is certainly more common than it once was. The high rates of divorce and remarriage mean that there are many more "blended families," another term for households with stepchildren. Some parents feel strongly that they want to pass their wealth on to their biological children only, while others want to distribute it equally among all their children. Divorced couples must also confront the issue of whether they wish to leave anything to an ex-spouse, especially if the ex-spouse later remarries.
An important conclusion drawn from these considerations is that a person's estate plan will change over time. Divorces and marriages are vital times to consider whether a person wants the current provisions of an estate plan to remain in effect or whether they need revision. Keeping a will, trust and other estate planning documents up to date can ensure that a person's intent is carried out.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Estate Planning: What You Don't Say Can Hurt You," Ann Brenoff, April 23, 2012.