Estate Planning for Blended Families

Even when you begin a life together with another under the best of circumstances and with the best of intentions, life sometimes throws you a curve ball.  Death, divorce, or any other unforeseen event can send you down a different path.  You hurt, you grieve, but at some point you recognize that when that door closed, another one opened, and before you know it you’re in a “some of his, some of hers, and some of ours” situation.  This applies not only to children, but to financial assets and responsibilities as well.  Whether earlier in life or later, these changes have profound influences on your earlier estate plans and it’s absolutely critical to review what you have in place and modify it as necessary.

For example, a previous spouse is generally entitled to a portion of the retirement plan you accrued while you were in a previous marriage, but you will want to review your plan to limit his claim on your estate as to any other assets.  Similarly, when all your children were also the children of your spouse, it made sense to leave everything to him, knowing that he would likely leave everything to your children upon his passing.  Because your current spouse has children of his own, though, he may not see things the same way.  Again, a different strategy may be in order to ensure that your children are provided for in the manner as you best see fit.  Whereas a simple will may have been sufficient previously, you may want to consider a living trust or testamentary trust.  The added complexity may be required to spell out what you want now.

If you find yourself in a blended family situation, you should consult a qualified estate planning attorney who can help you decide how to put your affairs in order given your current circumstances, and not carry over a plan from a time gone by that no longer remains a good fit.

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