Are Simple Wills Sufficient for Tangible Personal Property in Blended Family?

 In Non-Traditional Families, Wills
blended family estate planning

Photo by Andrea Niosi on Unsplash


My husband is 65 and I’m 62. My husband is divorced with 3 living daughters, all adults with children of their own. Two of his daughters are estranged from us. I am widowed with 4 children — 2 sons, and 2 daughters. We have been married since 1997. We have one child together, a son. All my husband’s children live out-of-state. One son has a child. My daughter has no children. My other daughter, from whom we are also estranged, has a child. My oldest son is at this time active duty Navy, married with 2 children, currently stationed in Japan. Our son together is married without children and also living in out-of-state. The question I have as we are in the process of setting up wills, in the event that one of us predeceases the other, can we have a blanket statement such as all property contained in our house will go to the surviving spouse, without listing each item of value?


Yes. It sounds like you have the quintessential “blended” family, even if it may not have blended so well. Generally, wills don’t refer to property by location, but simply state something to the effect that “I give all my property to my spouse.”

But you asked specifically to the property in your house. Estate planners refer to this as “tangible personal property” — in other words, stuff you can touch. It is quite common for wills to state simply that this will pass to the surviving spouse (or whoever the “testator” — the person signing the will — chooses). If it’s all going to the same person, you do not have to list each item separately.

I think that would work fine with respect to the items in your house. The more difficult question in your case, however, is do either of you want to leave everything else — the house and your savings and investments — up to the surviving spouse. If your husband dies first, would he be comfortable knowing that you could ultimately pass everything to your children? Would you be comfortable knowing if you passed away first that your husband could then pass everything to his children. If so, simple wills could well do the trick. If not, you may want to consider a joint trust through which you agree what happens to your joint property after you have both passed away.

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