Blended families have more estate planning “moving parts” to consider.
Baking is a relatively benign form of chemistry.
Ingredients are combined in specific amounts, at specific times, and at specific temperatures based on how they interact.
If done well, the result is a tasty treat.
If the ingredients were bad or the measurements were incorrect, the result can be inedible.
According to a recent The Record Courier article titled “Estate Planning for Blended Families,” blended families can either merge well or struggle to get along.
Blended families occur when two people marry and one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage or relationship.
The relational dynamics of a blended family make estate planning essential.
A common issue with asset distribution in a blended family is “accidental” disinheritance of biological children or the surviving spouse.
When all assets are left directly to the surviving spouse, then that spouse can disinherit the children of the deceased spouse.
In the absence of a premarital agreement, one option is to leave an inheritance to benefit the surviving spouse in a trust with the remaining trust assets passing to the children of the first decedent spouse at the death of the surviving spouse.
This requires those children to wait on their inheritance.
This can be impractical, especially if the surviving spouse is close in age to the children of the first decedent spouse.
A second option is to distribute half of the inheritance directly to the surviving spouse and the other half to the children of the first decedent spouse.
A third option is to make the children direct beneficiaries of specific life insurance or transfer on death accounts.
However, if the children are minors, then a separate trust can be especially helpful or necessary to administer such an inheritance.
Finally, good estate planning for blended families often begins prior to marriage.
By clarifying responsibilities and rights in a premarital or post-nuptial agreement, spouses can better define how their separate and joint assets will be used to care for the needs of the newly minted family.
This has been an oversimplification of a very complex subject matter.
If you have a blended family, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan to meet your specific needs and goals.
Reference: The Record Courier (March 12, 2023) “Estate Planning for Blended Families”