Blended families bring more complexity to estate planning.
Many households in America are blended family households.
This can be a result of divorce and remarriage.
Other times blended families come after the death of a spouse and remarriage.
According to a recent The News-Enterprise article titled “In blended families, estate planning can have unintended issues,” these families often are at higher risk of conflict and tension.
If the marriage between you and your spouse created a blended family, your family may face future conflict.
It can be challenging to adjust to a new family system.
This can be especially true for those who remarry later in life.
When adult children do not live with their parents and have their own families, blended families have fewer opportunities to bond.
Because the new spouse did not fulfill parenting duties, children can feel disconnected from the new spouse.
The stepparent is seen as the spouse for their parent rather than as a parent to the adult child.
In contrast, blended families with established relationships for decades may have less conflict around estate planning than those who have only recently become family.
Even so, it is important for all blended families to be intentional in their estate planning.
Blending families can cause complications if you fail to create a comprehensive estate plan that may include a last will and testament, revocable living trust, and coordinated beneficiary designations.
Although many people do not plan to disinherit their loved ones in a blended family, forgetting to revise documents from a previous marriage or failing to create a plan at all can leave loved ones hurt and confused.
By leaving everything to your spouse, you may open your estate up to a will contest from your children.
Even if you and your spouse agreed to provide inheritances to all children after the death of the surviving spouse, your new spouse could change the estate plan after your die and “intentionally” disinherit your children.
Without planning appropriately, you may also “accidentally” disinherit your children.
You can do so by failing to define the term “children” in your estate planning documents.
Specifically naming all children you want to be included can help to mitigate this issue.
That noted, all assets must then be meticulously “aligned” with the estate plan for it to function as planned.
Oftentimes, when a blended family has been established for decades, couples may consider all of the children to be “our” children.
In such instances, their respective last wills, along with their revocable living trust, all identify all of their “children” by name to be children of the couple.
However, if one of the most significant assets is in joint ownership with the husband’s eldest child, then what happens if the husband dies first?
If you guessed that that eldest child owns that asset free and clear, then you would be our grand prize winner.
You know what you call a surviving spouse and children who have been “disinherited” under such circumstances by design or default?
Because capacity is vital to being able to execute estate planning documents, you should schedule a time now to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your affairs are in order.
This professional can help you create a plan to meet your goals for your blended family even if you die first.
Reference: The News-Enterprise (Dec. 7, 2021) “In blended families, estate planning can have unintended issues”