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Blended families, estate plans and beneficiary designation errors

Blended families are more common now than they ever have been, thanks to high divorce rates. Many couples have children, split up and then get remarried. While this can create a wonderful family unit for all involved, it also means that it's more complicated with exes, step-children, multiple sets of grandparents, and much more.

This complexity matters when doing your estate planning. You must have a comprehensive plan that distributes your assets as you want, and you must update that plan after a divorce or a second marriage.

But don't assume that you can stop after you rewrite your will. You also have to consider the beneficiary designations that you set up.

"One of the biggest mistakes people make when determining who will inherit their assets is in the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies," one expert noted. "The best-laid estate plan can be destroyed by an incorrect beneficiary designation."

The reason is that the designations happen before the will. So, for instance, if your ex is still listed on your life insurance policy, it does not matter if you write in your will that your new spouse should get that money. It pays out to your ex before the will divides what is left of your estate. You have to update any designations so that they reflect your current status within your new blended family.

This is just one possible mistake of many, but it helps to show how complicated estate planning can be and why it is so important for you to carefully consider all of the options you have.

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