Think of the “average” American family. Mom, Dad, and two and a half children, right? Well, according to the most recent census data, that’s not the case. In fact, less than half of American families are in this situation. What does this mean? When it comes to planning, a lot. As Americans shift from the traditional family dynamic, the laws that govern how estates pass from one generation to the next become problematic. Many of these laws were designed for family structures that are becoming less common. Without proper planning, many new families will not transfer assets as they intend at death.
Perhaps one of the most common distribution plans we see is “everything to my spouse, and if he/she has passed away, equally to my children.” Many states, including Ohio, prohibit same sex marriage and do not recognize such a marriage from another jurisdiction. While the United States Supreme Court may change this landscape, there are no guarantees, and even the most savvy “court-watchers” are routinely surprised. Without proper estate planning, a surviving same-sex partner would not inherit under Ohio law. This problem is avoidable, but if not addressed could immediately cause serious issues with the surviving spouse.
Another consideration is the blended family. A step-parent may not have been there for the child’s entire life, but that doesn’t mean that a parent-child relationship doesn’t exist. Often, it is quite the opposite. Step-parents frequently want their step-children included in the planning as if they were one of their own. Alternatively, some blended families want to keep things separate, with each spouse’s share passing to their respective children after the surviving spouse has passed away. Neither of these scenarios will occur without proper planning.
Ohio has a set of default rules. Unfortunately, the default distribution scheme doesn’t accomplish what many people would like to see – especially those with more complicated family situations. Consider how you want your assets to be distributed. Is it going to happen with your current planning? If not, schedule a consultation to find out how you can accomplish this goal.