Creating an estate plan forces you to face the inevitable yet unsettling thought of what may happen in the far future. What happens to your children if you pass away? Will your spouse continue to care for them after remarriage? You want to support your spouse but also have a responsibility to your children.
No one can say what the future holds, but there are steps you can take now to ensure your children reap the rewards of your hard work, even when family dynamics change.
Understanding Pennsylvania inheritance laws
If you pass on without a will, your assets will undergo probate and be distributed according to state intestacy laws. Pennsylvania follows a predetermined hierarchy of beneficiaries, which prioritizes the surviving spouse, followed by children, parents, and siblings.
Even when you have children, your surviving spouse will inherit a significant portion of your estate upon your death. They are entitled to receive the first $30,000 of your intestate property and half of the remaining balance, with your children sharing the rest.
How remarriage could threaten your children’s future
Should your spouse remarry, they can bring the assets inherited from you into the new marriage without a legal obligation to pass it on to your children. Their new spouse may claim a share of those assets upon divorce or death, leaving your children out of the equation.
Not knowing whether your spouse will support your children after your death is disconcerting, but it’s possible without a plan in place. By using estate planning tools, you can gain better control over the distribution of your assets, ensuring your children’s future.
Benefits of creating a trust
A family trust is an effective estate planning tool for managing and distributing assets while avoiding probate. It ensures that your spouse, children, and any beneficiaries get a share of your assets in the manner you choose.
For example, you may set up the trust such that your children only have access to their inheritance once they reach 18. Alternatively, if you have adult children who are not financially responsible, you could set life milestones for them to achieve before they get their share.
Moreover, a trust can spare your family from enduring long and contentious probate proceedings. Probate can drag on for years, potentially leaving your children without support in the meantime.
By establishing a solid trust, you can protect your children’s rights to your assets. An estate planning attorney can also help you tailor a clear and detailed trust that minimizes the possibility of future family disputes.
Despite the fact that it may include many difficult discussions and decisions, estate planning can give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of.