With so many marriages ending in divorce and some people delaying marriage and having children, second marriages with blended families are much more common in our country. However, these family situations can lead to complex estate planning needs when one or more of the spouses have children from previous marriages. These conflicting needs can cause disputes between spouses or surviving spouses and step-children when the first spouse dies. If you are in a blended family, you can avoid these conflicts by preparing an estate plan with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Estate Planning Strategies When You Are a Part of a Blended Family
In a traditional estate plan for a first marriage, most spouses leave their estates to each other in their wills or trusts. However, in a blended family, each spouse may want to provide for each other, but may also want to provide for their own children from a prior marriage. The situation can also be complicated when a spouse has children from another marriage, but the couple also has children together. In addition, not all family members are always close, and this can affect whom couples want to provide for upon their deaths.
An estate plan can address these concerns. Here are some of the strategies that can be utilized in a blended family estate plan:
- Prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is entered into before a marriage where each party fully discloses his assets and financial liabilities, such as child support, mortgages, and credit card debts. In the agreement, the couple can define how they will pay their living expenses following the marriage, how property acquired after the marriage will be handled, and what will happen to property if they divorce or a spouse dies.
- Beneficiary designations. One way to ensure that a spouse or children from a prior marriage are taken care of upon death is to complete beneficiary forms for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and investments. By designating beneficiaries, a couple can have certain assets pass to each other but leave the remaining assets to their children or vice versa.
- Will or trust. Depending on the family and financial situation, both spouses should have a will or trust drafted to designate how they want their property distributed upon their death.
- Power of attorney. An estate plan should include a financial power of attorney to designate a person, who is often the spouse, to handle the person’s financial affairs if he is not able to do it for himself. Similarly, a living will should be prepared by naming a person to make medical decisions if a person is incapacitated.
Is your family a blended family? Our legal team is here to help you develop an estate plan that meets your needs and protects all of your loved ones in the way that you want. Fill out our online form to schedule your appointment today.