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Blended Families Often Require Careful Estate Planning

Archer Law Oct. 5, 2020

Divorce is a relatively common occurrence for modern American families. While divorce rates overall may be lower now than they were a few years ago, there is still a significant number of marriages that will end in dissolution rather than in death.

If you got divorced before and then had the good fortune of falling in love again and remarrying, you may currently have a blended family. If one spouse or both spouses had children from before the marriage, your family is effectively a blended family.

Blended families are often functional and healthy family units, but there are still fault lines that exist in these families that may rupture after one of the parents dies. If you remarried after a divorce and have children from your first marriage, there are special considerations for you when planning your estate.

You Should Balance the Needs of Your Spouse with Protections for Your Children

Especially if your new spouse is substantially younger than you, there’s a chance they might live for some time after you die. Knowing that they will have enough resources to meet their own needs is an important concern. However, simply leaving the majority of your assets to your new spouse may cause a rift between them and your children and potentially lead to a challenge against your estate.

There are ways that you can protect your spouse while also protecting your children. For example, you might change the way that you hold the property that you live in with your spouse so that they can continue living there after you die but your children don’t lose their right to inherit the value of the property. You might also create a trust to do effectively the same thing.

A trust can also be a valuable tool if you want to designate financial resources for your spouse but then hope that they will pass to your children when your spouse dies. If you simply bequeath them to your spouse, it’s possible that they might bypass your children in their own estate plan, effectively eliminating the inheritance you wanted to leave for your kids.

Blended Families Have a Higher Risk of Estate Conflict

You may also want to consider using a trust in your estate to prevent challenges to your last wishes where your children or your spouse can claim assets that you want to leave for someone else. A careful review of your assets and your family circumstances with an experienced lawyer can help you determine the best way to prevent complications in the estate plan you make for your blended family.