By Solid Serenity Legal Solutions
With divorce rates in the U.S. staying steady at about 50%, chances of someone you love remarrying and blending families with a new love are pretty high.
Blended families bring to mind pictures of the Brady Bunch, and happily ever after, but the reality is that’s not usually the case. Estate planning for families in blended marriages has complexities that aren’t present in other situations.
If you have remarried but also have children from another relationship, how do you make sure you are taking care of your spouse in the case of your death while also providing for your separate children? There are a few things to consider to figure out what works best for you and your family.
(1) Is There a Plan?
The first consideration is whether there is already an estate plan in place. If you and your spouse have wills then there are extra questions to be answered, the first being if you used the same attorney to create those wills.
If you used the same attorney to create your wills, then your attorney cannot take sides in any discussion of your wills. This may prevent your attorney from being able to comment on proposed changes to your plan.
Attorneys acting for two individuals must also confirm that they cannot keep any secrets from either client and must make sure that there is no conflict of interest present for either side. If your attorney prepared wills for both of you, they cannot change your will without receiving consent from your spouse.
In a blended family, joint representation like this may be problematic. Consult with your spouse and decide if you are in agreement on your estate plans before choosing an attorney.
(2) What Are the Goals of Your Plan?
Wills are merely instructions for who gets what if you die. This may satisfy your wishes but not be very tax efficient and does not give you the control to delay your asset distributions to minor children. Your estate plan can include life insurance, registered investment plans, and pension benefits and these are assets that may be designated or jointly owned.
These assets can add up to a substantial amount of money. Minors are not allowed to manage money and have to have adult Guardians to do so for them. With a Trust, you can have control over when and how those assets are spent. With a Will, those assets transfer immediately to the Guardian with no ability to control how they’re spent.
When determining if you want a Will or a Trust, keep your relationship with your ex in mind. If something happens to you, and you have a Will or no plan, chances are high your ex will be managing the money for your children as he or she sees fit. If that’s a problem for you, you absolutely need a trust
(3) Are You Being Fair to Your New Spouse?
In many states, spouses of a deceased person may ask the Court to, at a minimum, allow them to live in the marital home until they remarry or die, and have their spousal share of the remaining property allowed under the law of the state.
If your goals and plans are contrary to what a Court would rule if you had no plan, you want a Trust and agreement to the Trust by your new spouse. Make sure you and your spouse have talked through your plans before finding an attorney.
Blended families have unique challenges when it comes to Family Legacy and Estate planning. If you’re in a blended family, make sure you start your plan today, with an attorney who understands the complexities of your situation!