A blended family, also called a step-family, is a family where at least one parent has a child from a previous relationship, but they have combined to form a new family. Today, only 46% of children are living in a family with two married parents in their first marriage. Every day 1,300 new step-families are forming.
In estate planning for a nuclear family, typically each spouse leaves their assets to the surviving spouse, with the understanding that these assets will pass to their children after the death of the surviving spouse. In a blended family, if this type of plan is used and the husband dies, his children from a previous marriage could feel the need to monitor the surviving spouse’s use of the inherited assets to make sure they are spent “wisely;” causing friction in the family. Or the surviving spouse, over time, might decide not to leave anything to those children. Blended families face different challenges when they do their estate planning.
And if you’re thinking that you’ll take the easiest route and just not do an estate plan, the Massachusetts Law of Intestacy will dictate the distribution of your assets, and the result might not be even close to what you would have wanted.
There are several topics that the parents of a blended family need to think about. Should family assets be combined or segregated? To whom does each parent wish to leave their assets upon their death? If you want to leave some assets to your own children at death, will your surviving spouse have enough assets to live on? If you want to designate a trustee, how do you do that so everyone in the family feels comfortable?
For blended families, estate planning with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is crucial. For remarried spouses, a conversation about financial goals and proper legal documentation can prevent a ripple of heartache throughout the family should an unexpected death occur. There are estate planning tools we can recommend to help you make sure that the members of your family are taken care of just the way you want.
Call us today at (617) 299-6976 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation to start planning for your blended family.