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Estate planning when you have kids from a previous relationship

Getting married is usually a joyous occasion. Getting married for a second time can be just as exciting, although decidedly more complicated. Estate planning for New Jersey residents with children from past marriages or relationships is not always easy or straightforward, so parents who are getting ready to say "I do" for the second time around should take their time with the process. 

Ultimately, how a person wants their assets handled after their death is up to them. However, it is important to consider a variety of factors, particularly when there are complicating factors, such as a new spouse. Newlyweds or unmarried couples often consider leaving all of their estate to their surviving spouse. 

If a person with children from another relationship leaves all of his or her estate to their new spouse, there is not much guarantee that their children will see any type of inheritance. Even if the married couple agrees that the stepparent should leave an inheritance to the children, it is relatively easy to write them out of the will later on. This not only leaves them without an inheritance, but without any type of legacy from their parent. 

Many choose to include both their spouse and their children in their will to avoid this type of situation. However, if a person believes that their surviving spouse has enough and will not need anything from their estate, they may choose to leave it all to the kids. In this situation, New Jersey allows surviving spouses to make a claim for an elective share, or about one-third of the estate. This is a needs-based law, though, so having assets above a certain level will disqualify some people from seeking this option. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to estate planning. Each person must decide what is best for their estate, including how assets should be distributed and who should be on the receiving end. To better understand the personal, legal and tax implications of these decisions, consulting with an experienced attorney is usually a good idea. 

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