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Estate Planning for Blended Families

According to Pew Research Study, more than four out of 10 people are a part of a blended family. Blended families are common in today's society and often, each party brings additional children into the relationship and may also have their own children together. Most people believe that because they are married and have become a blended family, that the children will be accounted for in the unfortunate event of death or incapacitation of one of the spouses. Though logical, this is not always the case, and without a detailed estate plan, your blended family and the children within it can suffer financially. Because of this, it is invaluable for blended families to seek legal advice when planning your estate. If you or a loved one is interested in planning your estate, contact an experienced Texas estate planning attorney to help.

Estate Planning and Blended Families

A blended family is a family that includes children from a previous relationship or marriage of one or both spouses, and they are common in Texas. Though blended families may vary greatly, in cases in which each spouse brings assets into the marriage and wants to provide for the needs of the other spouse and the children, a comprehensive estate plan is needed. Without a comprehensive estate plan, children can be disinherited or not accounted for at all. Because of this, it is important that as a couple, before planning your estate, you determine the primary objective of your estate plan. This objective can consist of simply providing for the needs of the surviving spouse and/or your children if a life-altering event occurs. Once this objective is known, consider the relationship between your spouse and children as well as whether you should make a bequest to your children outside of your spouse.

Also, when planning your estate, there are several options to choose from, such as creating trusts and/or wills, to ensure your loved ones are provided for in the future. When speaking with an estate planning attorney, you will be able to decide what is best for you, your assets, and your loved ones.

Estate planning requires much careful consideration. Estate planning for blended families can be even more tricky, as it presents special challenges. Here are 5 Estate Planning Tips for Blended Families:

Tip #1: Communication is Critical

The start of the estate planning process should involve an honest discussion between you and your new spouse about your desires when it comes to future asset distribution. This discussion is not a one-time talk, as your goals and needs are likely to change over time, and with such developments, changes to your estate plan may be necessary. Another important element of communication with your new spouse is letting each other know about assets like 401k plans and life insurance policies.


Tip #2: Have a Will 

A will, properly formed and executed, can ensure that your assets pass to the people of your choosing, according to your wishes, upon your death.

Sometimes a person gets married, has children, and executes a will. At a later date, that person finds himself or herself no longer in that marriage, but in a subsequent one. Perhaps the person's new spouse has children that he or she is bringing into the new marriage and family. This is an important time to consider updating a will and estate plan, as circumstances have changed.

What should you do when this happens? Start by creating a list of all your tangible and intangible assets. There will be many, including things like your home, real estate, investments, jewelry, old photographs, and family heirlooms. In your updated will, you can direct who should receive your property. For example, you may have a locket that belonged to your mother, and your daughter was close to her. This asset has particular emotional value to your daughter, so you should specify in your will that it goes to your daughter upon your passing.

Tip #3: Consider your Family Dynamics

Suppose you simply leave all your assets to your new spouse upon your passing. Your spouse then has the power to do as he or she wishes with those assets. Consider what could happen if one or more of your children from a previous marriage is not on good terms with your new spouse. Your spouse could decide to create a subsequent will that prevents your children from inheriting property you would have wanted them to have.

You may want to make a distribution to your current spouse in a trust with the assets administered by an independent trustee. This can provide you assurance that assets you wish to eventually pass on to certain of your children eventually are, while also providing for your spouse during his or her lifetime.

If there are certain assets that you have determined your spouse will not require during his or her lifetime, but which you want to ensure are passed on to certain children, you may want to distribute those particular assets immediately at the time of your passing.

Tip #4: Consider Minor Children

Minor children are treated differently than adult children in estate planning, and require special consideration. A child under the age of 18 cannot legally control assets. If you want a particular person to be a child's guardian (the person who will manage the minor child's assets until that child reaches 18), then you should name that person in your will. Otherwise, the court will determine who the guardian will be. 

Tip #5: Incapacitated Planning

In Texas, your spouse will generally have authority to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. What if something happens where both you and your spouse become incapacitated? If you have a Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney in place, you will be prepared for that circumstances. A Durable Power of Attorney will name a trusted person to handle financial affairs when either you or both of you are not able; likewise, a Medical Power of Attorney names a person who will make decisions regarding your health care when you no longer can.

Need Legal Advice?

Estate planning for a blended family is not easy and can be overwhelming as well as frustrating. Though this is the case, your estate plans can be much easier with the right estate planning attorney to help navigate you through the process while keeping your loved ones needs in mind. Here at Kiefaber & Oliva, LLP, we will offer you knowledgeable guidance through the estate planning process and offer a comprehensive approach to this process. Contact our office today to help you plan your estate. 

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