Estate plans are as individual as the families that they are created for. Blended families need estate plans that address their own dynamics, including the resources and children that each spouse brings to the new family.
Blended families who marry, when children are young, are different from those who marry after their children are grown and have established their own families. Without years of living together as step-siblings, the dynamics may be considerably different.
Hometown Life’s recent article, “Blended marriages take careful estate planning,” discusses what happens when second marrieds combine their finances and must determine how to divide their estate. Their big question centers on how to address the kids, upon both of their deaths.
Many couples in blended families wonder what obligation they each have to the other’s children. The answer is simply none. A spouse doesn’t have to leave them anything in his or her estate. If they adopted the children, it’s a different story. However, as to step-children, think Cinderella: you have no obligation to them whatsoever.
However, if you do have children together, you have some legal duty. You don’t have to leave them anything, but you can’t ignore them. If you opt to disinherit a child for whatever reason, you should note this in your will and trust, and state specifically that they’re being disinherited.
For blended families, when it comes to estate planning, remember that it doesn’t matter what other people are doing. You should do what you think is best for your situation. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney, who has worked with blended families before. They will understand your situation.
Blended marriages are now common. There’s no right and wrong way to do things. Don’t feel pressure from others, because every family situation is different and, particularly in blended marriages, the issues can be complex. The best time to do your estate planning is not when you are facing an emergency, but when you have time to analyze the issues, discuss them with each other and consider how you want to go forward.
Finally, it may be a good idea to discuss your estate plan with your adult children. This also depends on each individual situation. If you have a close-knit family, it’s a smart idea to discuss your estate plan with them. However, if your family isn’t close, and you believe it will cause you problems and stress to discuss it with the children, then don’t do it.
An estate planning attorney who has worked with blended families will be a good sounding board for the couple. There are few situations that they have not run into, and she or he will be able to help you ensure that your estate plan reflects your wishes and protects the family.
Reference: Hometown Life (May 31, 2018) “Blended marriages take careful estate planning”