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Blending Families, Blending Assets: Estate Planning Tips

Make life easier for your blended family by creating an estate plan that considers your new unique dynamics.

Blended families bring together individuals from different backgrounds to create a new, dynamic, and loving unit. Celebrating and embracing each other’s unique qualities and working towards a stable and loving family environment is critical to a successful start. A blended family is a marriage where both spouses bring children from previous relationships. 

Blended families cope with many challenges—keeping up with busy schedules, maintaining inclusivity, and working through grief that may arise with the new family dynamics. Blended families must also work through how they will merge finances, blend assets and debts and what their comprehensive estate plan will look like while building a new family.

In many cases, a will already exists, but it is usually outdated and not enough to protect your new spouse and biological children from being disinherited if you pass away. Avoid this common scenario by having an estate plan before you remarry.

Blended family gathers outside for a party.

Estate Planning Tips for Blended Families

Communicate Openly

Good communication is critical to any successful relationship, and it’s essential when blending families. Not only are you working through communication within your new family unit, but each spouse likely has communication involving their previous family structures, especially if the couple brings in children from their previous relationship. 

Communication should start even before marriage. It is essential to talk about debts and assets and decide if a prenuptial agreement is a good fit for your situation. In addition to discussing monetary issues, it is also important to walk through scenarios involving children in the case of incapacitation and death. The system that needs to be put in place can be complex because of the number of people who may be involved. 

If your blended family involves adult children, it is significant to communicate with them, especially if you have decided to change any of their roles. One example is having an adult child who is your agent for your Medical POA and changing that designation to your new spouse after marriage. There are cases where new spouses shut out children from medical decisions, and this change could cause upset. Being transparent is the best path forward, and you can avoid surprises when they are least expected.

Consider a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that involves moving your assets into a trust managed by a trustee. A trust goes into effect immediately and protects your assets and privacy. A revocable living trust might be a good option for families where many people need care. Remarriage brings a new spouse and stepchildren into the picture. This can complicate an estate plan if there are biological children present. For many, there is a balance between ensuring your new spouse will be cared for if you pass away and a desire to keep certain assets for your direct heirs.

Some people assume that if they leave everything to their new spouse, that person will ensure the inheritance and assets will be fairly passed down to the children from each marriage fairly and equitably. This is not always the case. Suppose you make your spouse the only beneficiary. In that case, they have complete control of the inheritance and have no legal obligation to make sure your children or grandchildren will inherit anything from your estate. In this case, a trustee overseeing a revocable living trust can ensure that all parties are cared for in the way you intended.

Know Your State Laws

Unlike biological or adopted children, stepchildren do not have an automatic inheritance in a blended family unless specified in your will and estate plan. Knowing your state laws regarding common law, community property, and order of succession in probate can help you and your spouse have the best plan to ensure all of your children and family members are taken care of. An estate plan should be revisited every 3-5 years unless a major life event occurs. 

Blending families can be a beautiful and exciting process. It can also be complex and complicated; a simple will won’t cut it. Taking time to consider all the options and practicing open communication is the best way to ensure that your estate plan accounts for all new family members.

Mobile Estate Planning Made Easy

The process of getting a legitimate will in place for you and your family can be overwhelming, confusing, and costly, but it doesn’t have to be! At Assurest, we offer simple, affordable solutions for your legal needs and make the process easy by coming to you for the conversation—meeting you in your home or, if you prefer, virtually or over the phone.

Serving the Greater Richmond area and beyond, our experienced and trustworthy professionals simplify the process using clear, understandable language free of legal jargon and provide flat-rate packages, so you’re never surprised by the bill. Contact us today and rest assured that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Written By
Matthew Reinaker
February 28, 2023
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