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Estate Planning for the Blended Family

Preparing a will and estate plan for a blended family can be complicated, and strain family relations. These days, many families include children, stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws. The number of remarriages has been steadily rising over the past few decades. By some accounts, in 2013, 40 percent of marriages included at least one spouse who had previously been married, and in 20 percent of remarriages, both spouses had previously been married. Such situations require estate planning with clearly understood goals. The biggest issue in blended families is typically, “where will my money go when I die?” In many cases, remarried couples want to ensure that the surviving spouse will be appropriately cared for upon the death of their partner—with the children from their previous marriages becoming the ultimate beneficiaries of the assets their parents brought to the marriage.  The challenge comes from designing a plan that will keep all

College Expenses – How Courts Interpret Divorce Agreements

One of the most important aspects of a divorce settlement is the drafting of a settlement agreement.  The parties may come to an agreement, in general terms, about how much child support will be paid, and what a visitation schedule will be.  However, unless an agreement is very carefully drafted, there can be future disagreements, and expensive litigation. A case before the Appellate Division in New York recently illustrated the point.  In Matter of Apjohn v. Lubinski, 2014 Westlaw 641870 (3d Dept. Feb. 20, 2014), the parties disagreed as to what the father was required to pay for their son’s college expenses.  Their 1994 divorce agreement said that the father was to pay “an amount not to exceed half of the cost of tuition, room and board at a SUNY college or university,” and that the child was required to apply to “the said college or university” for all possible

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