Family structures in California have become more complicated in recent years. With second marriages, children from second marriages and the respective extended families, estate planning needs to take all of these considerations into account. While many aspects of an estate can be affected by family structure, real estate ownership may deserve a little bit of extra attention.
In a recent situation, a man used money from an inheritance to pay off a mortgage on his and his wife’s primary residence. The wife signed a quitclaim in order to allow the home to be put into a living trust. The condition was that if the husband predeceased the wife, she could continue to live in the home until her death. The wife in this case questioned the outcome of the quitclaim action as the living trust that the home was intended to be a part of was never signed.
One critical question concerns how the quitclaim was addressed. If it was to the husband he may now own the home outright but if the document was to the trust and the trust was never signed or recorded, the quitclaim itself may be invalid. Real estate transfer in the event of one’s death can be complicated by many factors. These include possible claims by children to part ownership of the home which could result in a surviving spouse being a co-owner with the decedent’s children.
Estate planning when blended families are involved in California can seem like an ever-increasing complex spider web of how and to whom one’s estate will be parsed. While it can be difficult to confront mortality, an open and honest discussion with the entire family can be the starting point to ensuring that one’s final wishes are successfully carried out. In addition, the family may be spared from making difficult decisions in the midst of their grieving.