Considerations for Blended Families When Estate Planning

Blended families are a common part of many households. As you plan your estate, you have to take into consideration all the complexities that go along with living in a blended family. If you get remarried, you will likely gain additional family members through stepchildren as well as new children from your marriage. You may also have additional family members, such as parents or in-laws to think about. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your estate as part of a blended family:

How Will You Deal with Important Decisions?

One thing to think about is how important decisions will be handed. If you can no longer make your own decisions, you need to know who exactly you want to oversee making those decisions for you. You need to name one or more people to make both legal and financial decisions. This can be done with a living will. A living will contain instructions as to how you want certain things to play out once you are no longer able to care for yourself. You also need to name a power of attorney in your living will, which is most often a spouse. However, if you have a grown child you wish to act as your power of attorney, you need to disclose this person in your living will. Make sure everyone in your immediate family is aware of your living will, your wishes, and how you want your affairs dealt with in the event you can no longer deal with them.

How Will Your Estate Be Dispersed? 

Most often, a spouse will leave their estate to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse then will have the authority to do with the estate as he or she sees fit. In blended families, this may be more complicated. When you have children from a prior marriage, you may want to leave a portion of your estate to them only.

If you want to ensure your children get something from your estate, you need to clearly make it known in your will. There can be problems if you trust that your new spouse will give your children what you want them to have, only to have your spouse not do so after you pass away. The only way to avoid any confusion is to state exactly what you want each person to have as you create your will.

One of the most common ways to be certain your children get some of your estate is through a trust. If your children are minors, you can place their portion of your estate into a trust and stipulate when and how they will receive the assets once you pass away. For example, you may stipulate that they may receive their portion of your estate at age 21 or when they complete college. Or you can stipulate that the trust will be managed by the children's surviving parent until they reach the age of adulthood in your state. You can discuss all your options with your estate planning attorney.

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