Estate Planning & Blended Families: What You Need to Know

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2015 | Firm News |

With the divorce rates as high as they are, there is a good chance that you or someone you know is a part of a blended family. According to Pew Research, 42 percent of adults are in some kind of a step-relationship, which amounts to 95.5 million people.

For millions of divorced, widowed, and remarried Americans, estate planning is more complicated. When you are in a blended family situation, there are more opportunities to make a mistake and the stakes are higher. You want to ensure that your assets are distributed to your current spouse, and not to your ex, and you have to consider how you are going to treat your children and stepchildren – will they be treated equally?

Current and former spouses, or both, may not see eye-to-eye on key decisions. For instance, who would take care of your minor children if one of the parent’s die – the surviving spouse or the natural parent? In regards to your beneficiary designations, which assets belong to which spouse, and have they been updated since your divorce?

Unfortunately, a surprising amount of people procrastinate about estate planning, especially when the intricacies of a blended family make the task seem daunting. Working through these details will not only avoid future estate planning hassles, but it will give you pace of mind knowing that your hard-earned assets will not end up in the wrong hands should something ever happen to you.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Who do you want to receive your assets when you die?
  • Who do you want to make the financial and medical decisions for you, if you cannot make them yourself?
  • Who will act as your children’s guardian should you die – the surviving spouse or the natural parent? Do your kids have a say in the matter?
  • What are you going to give to your surviving spouse?

When thinking about your estate planning objectives, keep in mind any wealth or age disparities between former and current spouses. If you are remarrying, should you get a prenuptial agreement? If you and your new spouse have a big age difference, who is more likely to die first?

Once you have decided what you would like to have happen, it is important to retain an attorney to formalize a structured plan. Unfortunately, free online services are not sophisticated enough to deal with the complexities of a blended family. Further, it is important to choose a lawyer who is familiar with working with blended families.

Contact a San Jose estate planning attorney from WealthPLAN, PC for more information!