This is part two of the differences between a will obtained online versus a will prepared by an attorney you have thoughtfully worked with for your planning. We mentioned in part one that we are asked to review online wills for potential new clients all of the time. A large majority of them are wills that they obtained in a “kit” or downloaded from the internet off of a site for “do it yourself” estate planning. As with last time, I’m not here to bash those sites and I’m not here to bash to kits. I’m here to just point out some differences between getting your will off the internet and working with an attorney. Then you decide what to do with the information.
Difference #2: Children from multiple relationships
We work with a lot of clients who have children from previous relationships and sometimes also have children from the current relationship. Let me give you an example.
Regina and Robert are in their late 40’s and between them they have three children. Robert has two children from a previous relationship that ended years ago. Both of these children are adults now. Regina and Robert, together, have one child who is 12 years old.
They come to me because they happened to attend church with one of my clients and my client mentioned working with our team. She then recommended the couple reach out to our firm because Regina expressed concern that the will they got through a kit they purchased didn’t seem clear on dividing up assets at her death to take care of her twelve year old and then it just seemed unclear what happened if she passed away before Robert. Does his Will then control? What about her minor son versus his adult children? How is the money divided up between his three children? What about her money she received when her father died? She had questions that just kept bothering her.
This is very, very common. The Pew Research Center indicates that over 50% of all adults over the age of 35 years will remarry after divorce or becoming a widow. Specifically, 35 to 45 year old adults will remarry at a rate of 57%, 45 to 55 year old adults will marry at a rate of 63% and 55 and older adults will remarry at a rate of 67%. This report, published in 2014, was a comprehensive study entitled “Four-in-Ten Couples Are Saying ‘I Do,’ Again: Growing Number of Adult Remarry.”
All numbers and stats aside, its just common. More common than not, actually. Despite being common, estate planning kits, online forms, tools, webinar and group planning options, software and the like type estate planning doesn’t properly address planning with blended family relationships.
Regina’s questions are valid. Robert may never have been asked during this “online will” creation whether he had made any provisions through non-probate assets to provide for his children from previous relationships. Regina and Robert may not even realize what is a non-probate asset versus a probate asset and what happens when someone dies to these two types of assets.
Intentionally working with an attorney to understand your last will and testament, your options available to take care of your spouse, your children and your spouses’ children (step children) takes time and takes understanding. Sitting down with an attorney and sharing with them just what you own, how you own it (meaning does Regina and Robert both own the house or is it still in Robert’s name, only, etc.) and how that impacts what happens when the first spouses passes versus the second and surviving spouse passes. These are conversations you just do not get when you get a will online or even a trust online.
Taking care of your family is THE REASON you get an estate plan. It is the number one reason people express to me in our first conversation: protect my family. How do you know if the online will, or the will or trust you got with the kit a celebrity financial advisor sold to you through an infomercial (even if this person is a “well respected” she is NOT an attorney), or the will you generated through inputting information through the Facebook sponsored post being touted in mom groups …. will actually protect your family.
We work with families, especially blended family, all of the time who purchased a will kit from a store or through an online program. We appreciate and love the intention behind the purchases. We, however, know in our hearts that each of these families haven’t been asked all of the right questions about their family and about their choices. We also know that these moms and dads haven’t been educated on the consequences of their decisions in these plans, even the decision to have a will for their minor children together while being able to recognize and give an outright gift to adult children … at the same time!
If you have a blended family and have these questions or concerns, especially if you purchased an estate plan, a will and/or even a trust online and have questions about whether the will (or plan) you have actually does what you want it to do when you pass away (when its too late), give us a call and schedule a strategic consultation with our attorney.