Estate Planning Basics: March 2011 Archives

March 18, 2011

Wills and Children from prior marriages

  Will being signed.jpgDear Liza: I am writing my first Will. I have two children with my current husband. He has one surviving child from his first marriage. I don't want her to receive anything if my husband dies before I do, I just want my two kids to inherit what I leave behind. I am not sure what to do? I think that the best thing to do in a situation like this is for your Will to be super clear. Name your children with your husband. State that he has a daughter from his previous marriage. Then make sure that your Will says that you have not adopted this child, do not have a parent/child relationship with her and that she is not to be considered a child for purposes of your Will, but that this term should only apply to your two, mutual children. Better to say this in the Will itself and not rely on anything separate from it, since things like that can get lost. If you are using software to do this Will, only list your two children. Usually you can add a new paragraph on your own, somewhere, to acknowledge this unadopted step-daughter and clarify your wishes with respect to her. If the software won't let you do this, see a lawyer who can draft just what you need.

March 16, 2011

Inheriting with a sibling

  siblings.jpgDear Liza-my boyfriend and his sister inherited a small parcel of raw land in the Hamptons, NY.  His sister seems to think she will get a princely sum for the parcel and refuses to consider a reasonable offer, even ignoring what the local real estate agents say it is worth.  My boyfriend wants to sell the property but his sister is adament about waiting and getting an unrealistic price.  Does my boyfriend have a choice--does he have to go along with his sister or does he have any rights to say No, sell it for what the real estate agents assess it? Oh, siblings can be so much fun! So, here's the thing--I don't know how your boyfriend and his sister own that property together. There are two likely ways that they could own it: tenants in common or as joint tenants. Both mean that each owns 1/2 of the property. Your boyfriend should consult with a local real estate lawyer to see what his rights are with respect to his half. It's probably possible he could force a sale with respect to his half if he really wants to. At the very least, that would get his sister's attention, if not cooperation.