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Blended Families & Estate Planning: What You Need to Know

Posted by Dana Law Group on December 9, 2020

image of blended family

Blended families are much more common today than they were years ago, which can create a number of legal challenges, especially when it comes to estate planning. Including your step-children or other members of your family who are related by marriage can create murky waters you don’t want your loved ones to deal with after you’re gone. You may also need to put your natural children above your current spouse, which can create hard feelings and make things difficult after your passing. When you handle your estate planning, there are a few important things you need to know if you have a blended family.

Which Assets Belong to Which Spouse

One of the most challenging areas to deal with when estate planning with a blended family is who the assets actually belong to. Splitting everything 50/50 is the norm with most couples, but if you’re on your second marriage, things aren’t always that clear. Chances are you both brought things into the relationship, as well as established things together during the course of your marriage. Joint assets obtained during the marriage are clearly split between the two parties, but many people want to make sure anything personal that came into the relationship with them is distributed to their families.

Splitting Assets with Children from a Previous Relationship

Estate planning laws weren’t designed to deal with blended families and can make things sticky when it comes to dividing assets among any children you had prior to your current relationship. It’s essential to talk to your attorney about how you want your assets divided between your current spouse, any children you had from your prior relationships and any children the two of you have together. Although laws don’t address these situations well, many attorneys today have experience dealing with these matters and can guide you in the right direction.

Caring for Minors

No one likes to think about something happening to them before their children are grown, but things do happen, which is why estate planning is essential for everyone, regardless of their age. In blended families, it’s essential to address who will care for any minor or dependent children you have, whether they’re from a past relationship or your current one. While a second spouse would, in theory, want to continue being involved with your children from other relationships, they don’t have a legal standing in these situations in most cases. Not only do you need to find a trusted adult to care for your children or dependents after you’re gone, but you also need to make sure they have access to the funds to raise them and are willing to provide access to your current spouse if desired.

Choosing a Trust and Trustee

One of the easiest ways to make sure your assets are divided according to your wishes with a blended family is to establish a trust. If you pass away, all your assets go into this trust and are administered by a trustee based on your wishes. Choose wisely. A trustee can essentially do whatever they want with the funds, and it’s essential to have full confidence the person you choose will follow your plan to the letter.