posted 9/19/2016 in Trust

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Providing for the needs of blended families require careful planning.

Estate planning can become complicated after remarriage. With remarriage often comes a blended family consisting of children from prior relationships along with children from the new marriage. A blended family requires you to evaluate the needs of your spouse, your children from prior marriage, your step-children, and your combined children. The goal is often to provide for everyone, but accomplishing this requires sound estate planning that is tailored to your individual needs and objectives.

For many, beginning an estate plan can be as simple as having a will that directs all assets to pass to your spouse upon your death and, should your spouse predecease you, to your children. While this is an oversimplification of even a basic will, frequently the goal is to provide for your spouse and children. However, with a blended family, a risk of accidental disinheritance comes to the forefront.

When a will simply provides for assets to pass to the surviving spouse, the spouse is free to do whatever he or she wishes with those assets. Unfortunately, the surviving spouse may choose to leave these assets only to children from a previous marriage or joint children, leaving the deceased spouse’s children from a prior marriage without an inheritance. While this may not have been the intention of the deceased spouse, failing to develop an adequate estate plan can lead to this accidental disinheritance.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid accidental disinheritance and to ensure that the entire blended family is provided for after your death. For example, your estate plan could provide for you assets to be placed in Trust upon your death for the benefit of your spouse. When the surviving spouse passes away the Trust could then provide for the remaining assets to pass to your children. This accomplishes the goal of providing for the entire family while also preventing any disinheritance that could occur after your death.

It can be beneficial to name a corporate fiduciary, such as a bank trust department to serve as trustee to ensure that assets placed in Trust are distributed to your beneficiaries according to your stated desires. This can limit or eliminate disputes that may otherwise have resulted from your family attempting to determine what distributions are appropriate.

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