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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Good estate planning must consider more than what you want to happen to your property and for your beneficiaries. It also must consider what you intentionally want to avoid happening.

POSTED ON: February 22, 2022

Family walking

It’s important that estate planning for blended families makes sure that assets pass to beneficiaries as desired, regardless of which spouse dies first. Families can become embroiled in disputes when the couple fails to address what will happen after the first spouse dies. The key to trying to avoid these disputes is a well-thought-out estate plan that honors the surviving spouse and provides an inheritance that’s protected for the deceased’s own children.

According to the article In blended families, estate planning can have unintended issues from The News-Enterprise, there are two types of blended families:

  1. Long-term blended family: When children were brought up by the parents and stepparents, a natural family relationship occurs between stepparents and their stepchildren.
  2. Blended family with adult children: The spouses married after their separate children were already adults, the children don’t live in the parent’s home, and they have their own lives and families. In this instance, the spouse is seen as the parent’s spouse rather than as the child’s stepparent.

Estate planning for blended families involves strategic thinking. Let’s say this is the second marriage for both Joe and Linda and they each bring young children to the marriage. What happens if Joe passes away and he leaves all his assets to Linda? Or what if Joe didn’t leave any will? The result could be that Joe’s children might end up not receiving any inheritance from Joe’s estate.

How could Joe’s children be disinherited?

  • Linda might remarry and give Joe’s assets to her new spouse.
  • Linda might remove Joe’s children from her will. This isn’t illegal as stepparents have no obligation to provide for their stepchildren.

Keep in mind that the estate planning goals for the two types of blended families might be different. Disputes over inheritance are more likely to occur in the blended family #2 above or when the relationship between stepparent and stepchild is rocky. If one spouse’s intention is to leave all of their wealth to the surviving spouse, the plan must anticipate trouble, even litigation.

Most people don’t intend to disinherit their own children or their stepchildren. However, failing to do the proper estate planning—having a will, setting up trusts, etc.—or not revising their estate plan when they remarry could cause a child not to receive the inheritance the deceased parent wanted to provide.

A final note: be realistic about what may occur when you pass. While your spouse may fully intend to maintain relationships with your children, lives and relationships change. With an intentional estate plan, parents can take comfort in knowing their property will be passed to the next generation—or two—as they wish.

Contact us today to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation to start doing estate planning for your blended family.