According to the U.S. Census Bureau, blended families now outnumber traditional families. Blended families come in all shapes and sizes, where at least one spouse has at least one child from a prior marriage or relationship. Due to the variety of situations and dynamics of each unique blended family, a cookie-cutter estate plan will not suffice to accomplish each individual family’s goals. It is important to discuss your family situation with an estate planning professional who can personalize a plan for you and your family which will enable you to meet your family’s needs and address any concerns you may have. For blended families, below are several items to consider as you and your loved ones plan for the future and preserve your legacy.
Questions you may ask yourself when creating a new estate plan for your blended family may include:
· 1. How can I provide for my children from a previous relationship and for my new spouse?
· 2. How do I ensure my children’s inheritance is protected?
· 3. Am I bringing significant separate property into the marriage that I want to keep apart from my community estate?
In creating your new estate plan, it is important to evaluate your goals and priorities regarding how (and to whom) you want to distribute your assets after you are gone. An individual may leave their assets however and to whomever they please. In our experience, clients typically want to provide for their children and spouse. Providing for both in a blended family setting however can be complicated.
Our experience is that in many cases a surviving spouse of a blended family ends up re-designing or amending the estate plan for only his or her children’s benefit. The only way to get around that is to leave assets in trust.
In addition to deciding how and to whom you would like to gift your estate, it is necessary to decide who would be best to serve as your trustee, executor, agent, etc. If your children and spouse get along, nominating a child and the spouse to serve together in these capacities may be a good option. However, if you think tensions will arise, nominating an independent third party (an impartial corporation, professional, or non-family member friend), will eliminate any potential friction caused by naming one or the other member of your family as trustee, agent or executor.
For blended families it is essential to create a comprehensive and integrated estate plan where trusts, powers of attorney, last wills and testaments, life insurance beneficiary designations, and retirement plan beneficiary designations all align so that your wishes will be followed when you are gone.
We strongly suggest that you plan ahead in some fashion so that when these documents speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself, your wishes are carried out and all of your loved ones are provided for in an orderly fashion. If you wish to discuss your priorities and goals in creating an estate plan for your family, please call us for a free 30 minute in office consultation.
-Attorney Rebecca J. Haines