Estate planning can be complex, and it becomes even more challenging when you have a blended family. If you have remarried or are in a committed relationship with no intention of marriage, and if either of you have children from previous relationships, it’s crucial to understand how your family dynamics can impact your estate plan. Let’s explore some key considerations for blended families.

Living Without a Will

If you do not have a Will, your estate will be distributed according to state intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes. In a blended family, this could mean that your children from a previous relationship might not inherit as much as you’d like, or that your new spouse might receive more than you intended.

Differing Estate Plans

When you and your partner have different estate plans, it can lead to confusion and potential conflict down the line. Major life events such as remarriage or an unforeseen health crisis present the perfect opportunity to review what’s currently in place, and what needs to change. For instance, when you say you want “everything to be divided equally,” does that mean that each child receives an equal share, or that each side of the family gets an equal share to divide among them? Maybe one of you inherited some assets that should go to specific children rather than being distributed among all of them. Being open and clear about your personal family dynamics will ensure that potential discrepancies are avoided.

Additionally, if you have a Prenuptial Agreement (prenup), it can significantly impact your existing estate plan. A prenup can specify how assets will be divided in the event of divorce or death, and it may conflict with your existing Will. In this circumstance, it is crucial to review your estate plan and make any necessary updates to ensure consistency and avoid potential legal challenges.

The residential property can be a source of contention when one spouse passes, especially if the home was titled in one name alone. What is the goal for that property? Do you want your spouse to be able to continue living there (effectively delaying the inheritance of some or all the children)? And under what conditions? Asking the right questions will help an experienced elder law attorney craft a solution that meets your goals.

Don’t forget about assets that pass outside of your will, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and jointly owned bank accounts. Be sure to review the beneficiary designations on these assets. You may want them to mirror your Wills, or you may make changes to leverage these assets to help meet your goals.

Ask about sharing the details of your estate plan. While this is not strictly a legal issue, it may be the keystone of a smooth plan. Your attorney can help you decide if and how to share the specifics of your plan and may offer to hold a group consult so that everyone is on the same page.

Estate planning for blended families can be tricky, but with careful consideration and the right legal guidance, you can create a plan that protects your loved ones and ensures your legacy is carried out according to your wishes. If you have questions or need assistance navigating the complexities of estate planning for your blended family, contact us at Marshall, Parker & Weber to schedule a consultation.

Marshall, Parker & Weber is open and available to help you assess what documents you may need or whether your current plan is in good shape. Call us at 800-401-4552 to schedule an appointment. You can also check out our portal for complimentary blog articles, videos and webinars.
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