It is not uncommon for parents with children to remarry. While the first marriage may have been the one that the kids on one side or both sides are from, the final marriage may be the one that lasts for decades. Hopefully, it’s a Brady Bunch-like situation where the family is tight, and there is fun had among the larger group of kids.
Estate planning under these circumstances, however, may need some extra thought to address stepchildren and step-grandchildren. Moreover, parents should also be aware that the loss of a patriarch or matriarch can lead to a dynamic family shift. It can mean children do not maintain ties to a step-parent, or it can be over the division of a large or complicated estate that includes ownership of a business or other significant assets. Whatever the estate’s circumstances and size, the remarried parents can minimize the stress and discord by drafting a detailed estate plan.
5 issues that blended families should consider
The parents should address several special considerations:
- The will: Leaving everything to the spouse could be a mistake. It may later lead to biological children getting cut out when the spouse dies and leaves everything to their biological children. Perhaps the surviving spouse remarries and leaves everything to a subsequent spouse, leaving biological and stepchildren out of the will.
- A trust may be a solution: This gives the deceased or decedent control over how, when, and to whom assets are distributed. It may mean supporting the surviving spouse while also addressing the needs of the kids or other beneficiaries.
- Choose the right executor or trustee: These roles involve making decisions that honor the deceased wishes but may not be popular. They will also have some degree of control over finances. A neutral third person may make the most sense if there is tension (or the potential for it) among family members.
- Consider passing assets directly to your children: Younger families often struggle with expenses, so some additional money could help with a college fund or other essential expenses. It may also make sense to pass along a family business or property tied to their side of the family.
- Decide who makes health care decisions: Pick someone to have medical power of attorney. This person will be in charge of healthcare decisions or executing the ill or incapacitated parent’s wishes.
Each family’s needs are different
A knowledgeable estate law attorney can help clients draft a thoughtful and detailed estate plan that meets the blended family’s needs. Based on the estate, they will suggest strategies tailored to address all foreseeable issues. They can also help resolve disputes as a neutral third party, help with probate and defend the family if there are potential claims or legal actions.