Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, parents of teen superstar Miley Cyrus, parents have decided to divorce after 17 years of marriage.  The couple confirmed their split to People magazine Oct. 27, 2010.  The blended family of Billy Ray and Tish includes six children:  Brandi Cyrus, age 23, and Trace Cyrus, age 21, Tish’s children from previous relationships, Christopher Cody Cyrus, age 18, Billy Ray’s child from a previous relationship, and Miley Ray Cyrus, age 17, Braison Chance Cyrus, age 16, and Noah Lindsey Cyrus, age 10, children born inside the marriage.  Reports suggest the slit is amicable and that the couple plans to share custody of their minor children.  Read More.

Blended families are becoming the norm in America, with more than half of marriages ending in divorce.  Television shows, such as ABC’s Modern Family, shed light on the challenges faced by blended families.  Like the Cyrus Family, spouses may enter a marriage with children from previous relationships.  Confusion is added when the couple has children within the marriage.  Estate planning for blended families is vital, so that no child is forgotten.  In the event a spouse dies without a Last Will and Testament, under New York law of intestacy, if the decedent has no children and leaves a spouse, the spouse takes all.  If the decedent leaves a spouse and one or more children, the spouse receives $50,000 plus one half the balance and the children share the rest.  Once the surviving spouse deceases, her children will receive the balance of the estate.  To prevent this from happening, many people consider placing their estate into a Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) Trust, also known as a marital QTIP trust.  This trust is set up to provide someone’s spouse with income for life. The surviving spouse receives income earned from the assets placed in the trust. Generally, the surviving spouse does not have access to the principal funds or property in the trust. When the surviving spouse dies, ownership of the trust’s assets passes to the beneficiaries named in the trust, typically the settlor’s children.

The attorneys at Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. have worked with a variety of families in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island.  To ensure an estate will be probated according to the wishes of the decedent, it is necessary to take into account the unique make-up of a family.  Proper estate planning will avoid the pitfalls of erroneously excluded a member of the family.  For questions regarding estate planning, please contact an attorney at the Leeds Morelli & Brown P.C. law firm for a free consultation at 1-888-556-2529 or visit the firm’s website at www.lbestatelaw.com.