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Blended families and estate planning

Estate planning can get complicated when multiple marriages and children from prior relationships are involved. However, the time spent establishing long-term goals and taking the steps to meet your objectives within with an estate plan is well worth it.

Provisions in the plans of Hugh Hefner and Jerry Lewis

Hugh Hefner was 91 when he died on September 27, leaving behind four children and his third wife, who is 60 years younger than the famous founder of Playboy. Mrs. Hefner will not inherit any of his estate due to an ironclad prenuptial. However, creative planning will provide her with a steady income for years to come.

Jerry Lewis -- who passed away in August -- intentionally cut his six sons and their descendants out of his will. Instead, he left his entire estate to his second wife and their adopted daughter.

Tips for blended families

Whether you want to exclude a particular relative, provide for a favorite charity or preserve your estate for some and not others, executing a estate plan can help you achieve your goals.

Here are some considerations for blended families:

  • Beneficiaries: Check your beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement plans. Be sure to include secondary or "back-up" beneficiaries in the event your first choice predeceases you or has to turn down the inheritance for his or her own estate planning purposes.
  • Cash flow: Bank accounts and other cash sources may be frozen in the weeks and months following a death. Immediate family members usually need access to money to continue meeting financial obligations and to pay for funeral expenses.
  • Children: Failure to specifically provide for children or partners from prior or current relationships may inadvertently exclude them from inheriting assets from your estate. Succession laws vary from state to state and can change from year to year. Do not make assumptions that may turn out to be incorrect.

Don't leave the future to chance for those you love. Planning is less complicated than you think with the help of an experienced attorney.

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