Is a Will Sufficient for Blended Families?

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Blended families require strategic estate planning.

Blending two families is no small task.

You have two households coming together rather than simply two people coming together.

Whether your new family is formed after losing both of your former spouses to divorce, death, or a combination, things can get complicated fast.

According to a recent The News Enterprise article titled “Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning,” estate planning is one consideration you cannot avoid.

Blended families require more than a will.
A trust may better meet the needs of blended families.

Although a last will and testament is an important aspect of estate planning, this document alone is insufficient when planning for blended families.

What if you and your new spouse each execute a new last will leaving everything to one another outright and free of trust, with all of your “blended” children as equal beneficiaries upon the death of the surviving spouse?

It could work.

Unfortunately, a last will can be changed.

In fact, your surviving spouse has every legal right to change her will while alive and mentally capable.

And, yes, she can choose to leave everything to her own children and fully disinherit yours.

Whoever outlives the other gets the final say.

Yikes!

For blended families planning with revocable living trusts can provide greater control and even avoid future unintended consequences like disinheritances.

However, to work these trusts must be carefully drafted and then appropriately “funded” with your respective assets or they will not be worth paper on which they are printed.

How so?

If all of your assets are in held between the two of you as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or with each other as the primary beneficiary, then all assets will pass at death to the surviving spouse automatically and the trusts will hold no sway.

Ultimately, when carefully drafted and properly funded, your respective trusts should be able to provide for the surviving spouse while also preserving an inheritance for all of the children.

Blended families require the help of an experienced estate planning attorney to provide peace of mind and protect all family members.

Reference: The News Enterprise (November 4, 2019) “Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning”