If you are married (or in a marital-like relationship) and have children from a previous relationship, you have a blended family. As you likely have experienced, having a blended family tends to make life more complicated; it also makes your estate planning more complicated, but that’s a good thing. There is much you can do with your estate planning to keep the peace in your blended family. The two most important tips for keeping the peace are: 1. Get it in writing; and, 2. Talk it over. In addition, consider these estate planning tips for blended families.
- Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney and disclose all family personal and financial issues: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more your attorney knows, the better she can provide good advice and design an estate plan that works for your individual situation.
- When designing your plan, do not have all assets flow to your spouse at your death and don’t make your children the remainder beneficiaries of your spouse’s trust. This will either disinherit your children and/or cause hurt feelings, anger, and competition. Instead, provide an inheritance for your children at your death.
- Execute a comprehensive estate plan and update it on a regular basis, every three to five years or sooner if you get divorced, have a new child in your life, have significant health changes, or move to a new state.
- Be sure that your wishes regarding life support if you are in a persistent vegetative state (i.e. living will), disposition of personal possessions, and final arrangements are all in writing. If you address these three issues, many family fights will be averted.
- Have a family chat, explaining that you have an estate plan; explain who’s in charge when.
- Have individual chats with each loved one, so he or she knows where they fit in your life and your estate plan.
If you have a blended family, get good advice. Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.