There are a multitude of issues to iron-out when families blend together, such as shared living space, sleeping arrangements, transportation, after-school care, visits with ex-spouses, college funding -- the list goes on. So, it isn't a surprise that few blended families start life together with "let's get a professionally-prepared estate plan" as a top-of-the-list item!
However, the excitement of blended families can easily become confusing due to an untimely death or illness of someone close to you. As such, it is critical to have your estate plan in order. Avoid leaving your blended family out to dry when it comes to making sense of your estate.
In order to prepare for the future of your blended family, take the time with your spouse to assess your situation, discuss goals, and determine how you would like your estate distributed. Think through every scenario, addressing issues such as death of either spouse, step-children, future children, in-laws, aging grandparents, etc. Working through these scenarios together now may not be the most enjoyable conversation, but could spare a great deal of future stress for your loved ones.
You need to be certain that your spouse and children have everything they need to thrive after your passing. Have you adopted a child or have custody of a minor child? Do you have biological children with someone other than your spouse? Do you have dependent parents? Don't leave it up to the courts to decide the guardians of minor children or how assets should be assigned.
Options to Consider
There are numerous options that can be tailored to your unique family situation. Many blended families utilize a trust to ensure that their wishes are upheld after passing on. Other options can help to lower your estate taxes and the burden on your loved ones. Becoming aware of your options is crucial for creating a plan of action, so talk with your attorney to learn what is available.
With the many life changes that come with a blended family, a new marriage, and possibly new children, it may be easy to forget who you have listed as your beneficiaries. Retirement accounts, insurance policies, bank accounts — double check to be sure they are up-to-date and in line with your current situation and wishes for your estate plan.
Whether or not your divorce and remarriage have been amicable and all parties are civil, it is critical to identify a clear and concise plan for assets upon marriage, divorce, remarriage, births, deaths, etc., so that relatives and other individuals can minimize disputes over who should receive which asset.
To do so, start forming explicit lists of items or properties and possessions, then specify who should receive each asset in the event of your passing. Failing to designate where specific assets should go after passing will only cause confusion and disappointment.
You might be surprised to find that your beneficiaries might have different sentiments or desires than you would expect, so consider having discussions with them about these personal possessions. Also, failing to list items and assign specific inheritors can cause confusion and put these assets at risk.
Find Someone Who Can Help
Certain situations in life should cause us to realize the importance of having an estate plan and if you have a blended family, your situation makes it a priority. Our estate planning lawyers can walk you through the process, helping you to create an estate plan which provides for your blended family after your passing. Visit our website for more information on estate planning services, or call Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC to set up a time to discuss creating an estate plan for your blended family.
At Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC, we are here to guide you throughout the process. Please call us today for a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.