Blended Family? How Estate Planning Can Be Tricky

Law Blog

Do you have a blended family? Increasingly common in modern America, a blended family consists of two individuals who each have children prior to the new marriage. They may or may not have additional children within the new marriage. 

Blended families face some unique challenges, including how to harmonize the new family as a unit and how to maintain both balance and fairness among all the kids. One unusual piece of the puzzle, too, is the little-understood challenge of estate planning in this situation. While it may seem simple enough on the surface, estate planning for blended families can be a challenge. Here's a short guide to why and how to solve it.

Why Can Estate Planning Go Wrong?

To ensure fair or equal inheritances, your first challenge is simply to do some planning. If one spouse dies intestate (without a will), their assets will generally be divided up by the rules of your state. This usually stipulates that most (or all) of the estate goes to the spouse. If the spouse then dies intestate too, the entire couple's assets would likely be distributed to his or her children alone. 

Even traditional estate planning methods can result in skewed inheritances. For instance, you might create a trust to ensure that joint assets are held for distribution to all the family's children after both parents pass away. However, when one parent passes away, the other parent would likely be able to change the terms of the trust or dissolve it and therefore give a larger portion to his or her children. 

How Can You Conquer Blended Family Estate Planning?

The best way to ensure your wishes are followed upon your passing may be to separate each spouse's assets from prior to their marriage. These would be held in trusts overseen only by each spouse and distributed per the individual's wishes upon their death. Your children, then, would get what you came into the marriage with.  

A separate trust for joint marital assets, such as a home purchased together or newly-established bank accounts, would provide for the marital couple. It would then be distributed equally upon both parties' deaths.

Where Should You Start?

Clearly, estate planning in any unusual family circumstance can be even more complicated than it already is. Your best path is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney as early as possible.

While no one wants to dwell on the fact, a death can happen within your marriage at any time. But when you have prepared for the possibility, you and your new spouse's family will all be taken care of. Learn more by making an appointment with an attorney like those at today. 


14 July 2020