Estate Planning and the Blended Family

Blended families can be complex and take many forms. They are married couples with children from previous marriages. Typically, in blended families, a goal of the estate plan is to provide for the spouse and the children from previous marriages. They may want to provide for children from their spouse’s previous marriage as well.

Estate plans specifically designed for the blended family is important.


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An estate plan must address who gets your assets, how much each beneficiary gets, when they receive it, do they receive it outright or in trust, and who will act as agent and fiduciary. These are important for all estate plans but particularly for modern families.

Creating an estate plan involves understanding what you and your spouse have as goals, how you want to provide for each other, and your children or family members to include guardianship issues. Review obligations to former spouses and federal and state tax laws governing your assets. These conversations can be difficult and can be facilitated by including an estate planning attorney.

Your registration and ownership of various accounts can greatly facilitate the assets in the account going to your chosen beneficiary and avoiding probate. If accounts are owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship or transfer on death it is clear the assets go directly to the named beneficiary. Make sure all beneficiary designations are up to date. You could otherwise unwittingly pass assets on to your ex-spouse.

Trusts hold assets for beneficiaries. They can specify how and when the assets go to the beneficiary, again avoiding probate. Trusts can be used as a tool to segregate assets for children from a prior marriage. Blended families can benefit from trusts that can provide financial support for your spouse while leaving assets for your children. Different kinds of trusts are appropriate for different circumstances.

The need for estate plans for a blended family is common. Roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce and 43% of marriages are a remarriage for at least one spouse. Estate planning for the blended family is somewhat more complex. It requires a lot of communication, thought, and carefully crafted legal documents. Work with an estate planning attorney to realize the implementation of your goals. You, your family, and loved ones will benefit.