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Conflicts in blended families and estate plans

It is not uncommon for there to be disputes in blended Colorado families over estate plans after a person's death, but these are generally clear legal matters. In one case, a woman learned that her father had left her a house although her stepmother had not mentioned this to her.

There are certain procedures that must be followed after a person's death. For example, all beneficiaries are supposed to receive a copy of the will. A person can find out if there is a will associated with an estate by filing a petition with the county clerk.

People are not permitted to remove assets from the estate that do not belong to them. The will may deal with the disposition of these assets, but if a person dies without a will, there are still procedures in place for determining who will receive assets from the estate. In this particular case, which happened in Michigan, the daughter would probably receive a portion of her father's estate after her stepmother received her share.

Estate plans should be updated regularly, but doing so may be particularly important in blended family situations such as this one. People should make sure they do not inadvertently leave an inheritance to an ex-spouse or leave children from a new relationship out of the will. It is important to remember beneficiary designations for assets such as retirement accounts since these override instructions in a will but can sometimes be forgotten. People who want to have more control over how assets are distributed might want to consider whether a trust would be an appropriate tool. A trust may perform a number of functions including managing when a person receives distributions, protecting assets from creditors or in case of a divorce, donating to charity or taking care of relatives who have special needs.

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