Protecting your blended family’s future with estate planning

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Remarriage brings together many California families, uniting stepparents, stepchildren and half-siblings to create a new family. However, bringing together these families can make estate planning particularly challenging. What should you know about creating an estate plan that meets the needs of a blended family?

What happens to your estate if you do not have a plan?

Without a will or trust, the state’s intestate succession laws will dictate what happens to your possessions. Unfortunately, California law does not automatically recognize stepchildren and other loved ones as heirs. As a result, failing to create a plan may result in excluding stepchildren and other members of a family who are not biologically related to you.

Can you use a will as your sole estate planning tool?

Wills are often the backbone of a person’s estate plan. These documents allow you to name a guardian for your underage children. They also allow you to provide clear instructions for who will receive your assets after you pass away.

However, relying on a will as the sole tool in an estate plan can create challenges, particularly for blended families. For example, if you pass away before your spouse, you may want them to continue to benefit from your home, your savings and your other assets. However, if they remarry or choose to change their will after you pass away, your children from a previous marriage might end up with nothing.

How can a trust benefit people with blended families?

Trusts are highly beneficial for blended families, offering flexibility and control over asset distribution and timing. You could, for instance, create a trust to support your spouse for life while safeguarding the principal for your children from a former marriage. This arrangement helps prevent conflicts and ensures that your estate plan provides for both your spouse and children.

A revocable living trust lets you manage the assets during your lifetime and specify post-death arrangements. This is crucial for blended families because it bypasses probate and can adapt to changes in family dynamics.

Additionally, a Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) Trust can be especially useful for families with complex dynamics. This trust allows your surviving spouse receives income from the trust during their lifetime. The assets placed in trust will eventually going to your children after your spouse’s death.

Blended families face unique challenges during the estate planning process. Thankfully, with careful consideration, it is possible for you to provide for all your loved ones.