Blended families require special attention in estate planning.
Families are not always peaceable.
Every age and stage carries unique conflict triggers.
The death of a parent often awakens old wounds and can create new ones.
According to a recent Forbes article titled “Could Your Aging Parents’ Estate Plan Create A Nightmare For Step-Siblings?,” special care should be taken by blended families to minimize these conflicts.
Although blended families are common, developing and fostering good relationships can be a challenge for many.
Siblings rivalries and resentment towards parents can become even greater when DNA is not shared.
If you are planning to remarry or have remarried, you should update your estate planning documents.
First, you do not want your ex-spouse to inherit your assets.
Or do you?
Regardless, you want your assets to be distributed according to your wishes.
Discussing your goals with your new spouse – and with your estate planning attorney – is essential.
Clearly communicate with your new spouse how you plan to provide for each other and for your respective children when you die.
Whether you plan to leave your step-children out of your inheritance planning or to include them, you should be candid with our loved ones about your intentions.
Your estate plan should also divide your assets accordingly.
The parents in blended families should take special care when appointing trustees, personal respresentatives, attorneys in fact (i.e., financial power of attorney), and health care agents.
Your loved ones may battle over who makes decisions on your behalf, especially if you elect to name your children, step-children, and spouse as joint agents.
Although these heated disagreements can certainly occur within nuclear families, the nature of blended families can make the prospects of “nuclear war” more likely.
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones?
Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney while you are still competent.
Who knows, you may lose capacity at some point before you die.
Review your legal documents with your loved ones to ensure everyone understand your wishes.
If you include a revocable living trust in your estate plan, be sure instructions are clear – and that all of your assets are properly “aligned” to work with your plan.
By taking the necessary steps and having hard conversation now, those with blended families can minimize conflict and preserve unity in times of death and incapacity later on.
Reference: Forbes (June 28, 2021) “Could Your Aging Parents’ Estate Plan Create A Nightmare For Step-Siblings?”