A friend of ours named Jill admitted a few years ago that she never fully appreciated the importance of estate planning for blended families until she went through it herself. She and her first husband, Frank, were married for 15 years and had their own will and trust in place before he unexpectedly passed away in 2014. After a few years of thinking she could not possibly remarry, Jill married a nice man named Brian and now has a blended family (her daughters from her marriage to Frank and another child with Brian).
Naturally, the first place she and Brian turned to for estate planning for blended families was our office at Leigh Hilton, PLLC.
And boy, was she ever right about getting their ducks in a row sooner rather than later.
While estate planning is important for everyone, too many people underestimate the special and unique financial and estate planning needs that must be addressed if they have remarried and thus created a blended family. Not to scare anyone, but neglecting these issues is a surefire way to create a less-than-desired result for your blended family in the event of illness, incapacity, or death. Without an estate plan in place, Texas law will apply, and your final wishes may not be fulfilled.
Just consider these complex family relationships:
Existing children from the previous marriage
New children from the current marriage
Minor children from current or previous marriage
Beneficiaries with special needs
Adopted children and grandchildren
Former spouses (in case of divorce)
A Special Strategy
Weddings are times of joy and optimism. The vows are also sincere and well-intentioned, and the couple may live happily ever after. But life happens, and so do death and divorce. Remarriage may result in cordial but often not close step-relations. While you may think everything is great now, too many blended families thrown together by remarriage merely tolerate each other until the biological parent dies or becomes disabled. From there, a litany of potential problems can arise.
For example, if the spouse who has the majority of assets dies first, whose interest is primary? Will it be the surviving spouse or the children? If a parent is not careful, his or her children may be unintentionally disinherited. If the children are protected, the surviving spouse may be disinherited. What is a person to do?
The best way to have a smooth transition upon disability or death is to create a comprehensive strategy before you cannot execute the papers. Estate planning for blended families would include a prenuptial agreement along with a fully funded, revocable living trust. These documents can only be accomplished swiftly and accurately by working with an estate planning attorney with specialized knowledge of extended families. Another key component is the successor trustee. The successor must be savvy, compassionate, and, hopefully, familiar with family issues.
Tips To Secure Proper Estate Planning for Blended Families
Make sure you have a valid will — A will is viewed as the first step in any estate planning strategy, especially for blended families. Without it, the laws of intestacy will dictate who inherits your assets. And it may not be who you intended.