Estate planning can be tricky, and even more so for blended families joined together by a second marriage. In blended families, one or both parents have children from a previous relationship. A careful, thought-out estate plan can help prevent future inheritance quarrels, particularly between stepparents and children.
Prior to getting remarried, you and your new spouse will need to create an estate plan to accommodate your new family unit. Following a thorough review of your assets, the next step is to determine how you wish to provide for your surviving spouse, children and step-children when you are gone.
A standard will won’t cut it.
Generally, a standard will and testament isn’t enough for a blended family. For example, if you leave everything to your spouse in your second marriage, there is always the possibility that he or she will exclude your children when you have passed away.
The following estate planning options can help protect your family and your assets.
- Take Out a Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance is one option for providing for members of a blended family. For instance, you can leave a large portion of your money and property to your spouse, but also provide for your children by purchasing a life insurance policy that names them as beneficiaries. This eliminates the risk of the surviving spouse disinheriting step-children.
- Set Up a Trust Agreement
Parents can ensure inheritances of their children, as well as their spouse and step-children, are protected by creating individual trust agreements as part of their estate plan. Setting up a trust will allow you to provide for your surviving spouse during their lifetime, and when your spouse passes away, distribute documented assets and properties to the children accordingly. There are a variety of trusts that can be structured for your family’s specific needs. You must name a trustee to distribute these assets to the beneficiaries.
- Leave Designated Assets for Your Children
Be sure to identify sentimental items and family heirlooms in your estate plan so that the family member or loved one you name can receive that specific possession when you are gone. Often times sentimental assets have little to no monetary value, but can cause the most contention among surviving children in the family.
Start the Discussion
End-of-life planning, especially in blended families, can feel uncomfortable and tense. But starting the conversation now about your plans rather than later will ensure a smooth, stress-free process when the time arises. Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love the most is a properly, organized estate plan for when you are gone.
Bottom line: Navigating estate planning can be tricky for blended families, but by working with your attorney to formalize a plan, you can ensure your final wishes are honored. Take the time now to review and update your estate plan. It will save you and your family a lot unnecessary stress and inheritance battles in the future.