In this day and age, the traditional family unit is no longer tradition. With divorce on the rise, there is solace in second marriages and the opportunity to grow a family. In many cases, the result is a blended family. Blended families are those consisting of a married couple and their children, if any, from the current relationship, as well as children from previous relationships. In some cases, only one spouse has children from a prior marriage, and in other cases both spouses do. Whatever the case may be, blended families have a greater need for an estate plan to account for the different parties involved.

Naturally, a common problem for a married couple with a blended family is deciding how the estate should eventually be divided and distributed. Concerns arise as to how and what children from the current and prior marriage(s) should inherit, and how the surviving spouse will have sufficient resources for the remainder of his or her lifetime. The struggle to come to an agreement on these terms often discourages a married couple with a blended family from setting up a joint estate plan.

The consequences of not having a carefully crafted estate plan can be particularly detrimental to a married couple with a blended family. For example, planning to leave most of your assets to your children from a previous marriage can leave the surviving spouse with little support for the rest of his or her lifetime. Alternatively, planning to leave everything to your surviving spouse can leave your children from the previous marriage anxious and bitter since there is no way to guarantee they will receive an inheritance. In neither case is everyone happy. But rest assured there are many estate planning strategies that can be utilized to reach a desired result for all parties.

When planning for married couples with blended families, we address the inherent, competing interests involved, and we take the time to understand the parties and anticipate what conflicts might arise. While there is no one size fits all estate plan structure for blended families, a Revocable Living Trust can be carefully tailored to achieve most objectives.

Another issue that arises with married couples with a blended family is that one spouse may have an estate plan that predates the marriage. In that case, the provisions of the old estate plan generally do not anticipate all the issues which arise with a blended family. As such, we recommend that you have your prior estate plan reviewed and evaluated by a professional to ensure it suits your current needs and intentions.

No matter what the family dynamics are, if you have not recently reviewed or established an estate plan, you need to. Seek the assistance of an estate planning professional to discuss your goals – it’s in the best interests of your family and your own peace of mind.