How to leave out your in-laws when drafting your estate plan

You have children and assets, so you're doing the responsible thing. You want to create an estate plan or last will to ensure your assets go to the right people. Whether your children are young or are grown and have already married, you probably want to leave something for them. However, no matter how much you may like your son- or daughter-in-law, you probably don't want your child to have to split an inheritance with a spouse in a divorce.

It makes sense to want to protect your children from what has become a very common occurrence. Divorce can be financially and emotionally devastating, and you wouldn't want your estate to inspire an in-law to leave the family for financial gain. Thankfully, with a little careful planning, you can ensure that what you leave to your children or grandchildren stays with them and not with their spouses.

Be very specific about the names of your heirs

When creating your last will and estate plan, be sure to name each person carefully and exclude their spouses from mention. If you do leave something to your in-laws, be sure to be very specific about who gets what. Any large asset should generally go to your direct relatives and not your in-laws. So long as the spouses remain with your children, they will still enjoy the benefit of those assets.

If they choose to leave, however, they should not receive a portion of the assets you set aside for your child. Setting clear and direct outlines for asset distribution in your will or estate plan is a solid start.

Consider creating a trust

Sometimes, depending on the circumstances of a marriage, even separate property could end up subject to division. Creating a trust for your assets or even a trust for each of your heirs could be a good way to ensure that no individual other than your heir has access to the funds.

A trust has a lot of benefits, including the ability to create very specific conditions for the use of the assets. You can also name a trustee to ensure everything gets managed properly. A trust may also offer tax benefits if your estate is above a certain size.

Teach your heirs about co-mingling assets

If your heirs will have direct access to funds or other valuable assets after your passing, make sure they know about the importance of keeping these assets separate. For example, if your daughter shares a checking or investment account with her husband, she would be wise to deposit any liquid captial from an inheritance into a new account in only her name.

By keeping the assets under their direct control, your heirs can help ensure that their inheritance remains theirs in the event of a divorce. Generally, separate property won't end up divided in a divorce.

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