How your property is titled is a crucial consideration when estate planning under normal circumstances; however, it takes on heightened importance when you are part of a blended family. If you are part of a marriage where both spouses have children from a previous relationship, you may wish to pass down property directly to your children and your spouse pass down property directly to his or her children. How your property is titled can directly impact your ability to achieve that goal.
If you die without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament behind, your estate will pass to your heirs through the laws of intestate succession in effect in the state where you lived at the time of death. Your estate at the time of your death will include all property, real or personal, tangible and intangible, in which you have an ownership interest. Although you and your new spouse may have reached an agreement that you plan to view all of your property as joint property, this agreement does not legally make your property joint property. You may, for example, have decided that it made more sense for you to move into your spouse’s home when you were married. If the ownership document is still in your spouse’s name then the home is not part of your estate at the time of death since you have no legal ownership in the property.
In order to make sure that you have a legal ownership share in all property of the marriage, consider titling the property jointly. On the other hand, if you have property that you wish to retain as separate property, you may wish to avoid titling the property jointly. Once you have decided how to title your property, you should still prepare a will in order to ensure that your wishes with regard to the property are carried out in the event of your death.