Estate Planning and Blended Families

Not all families are typical. In fact, most families in this day and age are not a mother, father, and biological children. There may be step-children, half-sisters and half-brothers, adopted children, ex-wives, step-mothers, or a variety of other family members that comprise your non-typical but tightly knit family. So how do you include everyone in your will? When you have a blended family to account for, you will want to enlist the help of an attorney. With a probate lawyer on your side, you can draft a will that leaves everyone involved and satisfied. These days, one man may have children from three or four marriages. If he wants all the children to have an equal share in his estate, he will want to carefully apportion the will to reflect this desire.

If you are a divorced man or woman who is about to blend another family with your own in a new marriage, then you should start by getting a prenuptial agreement. This will help to determine whether or not your current spouse and children would inherit your fortune in the event of your death or whether you want it to be spread among families. Also, in the event of a divorce, a prenuptial agreement will help to govern all property divisions. Because second, third, and fourth marriages are often less likely to last, you will want to prepare for the worst. You may hope that you will never need to use this unromantic and stoic agreement, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

After you have gotten that step out of the way, it might be smart to designate a trustee who can manage your affairs in the event of your death. If you do not designate a trustee, then chances are that your newest spouse will take on this role. If you do not want that, then you need to specifically express that in your will. You can designate a child, trusted business partner, friend, or hired, unbiased third party to designate the properties of your estate in the event of your passing. You will want to remove any possibility for the new spouse in ta blended family to chance the beneficiaries and disinherit your other children in the event of your death.

A spouse may believe that he or she is entitled to your wealth and that his or her children should be the only heirs. You will want to specifically state that your children from all marriages are entitled to a share of the fortune and specifically state the value and content of that share. Clearly state all children by name so that there is no dispute. Don’t use vague language like “divide my possessions among my children” because this could be interpreted a variety of different ways in a blended family. While your current spouse may argue that her children are included in this agreement, another child from a previous marriage may argue that he or she is a biological child and deserves a greater portion. Things can get messy among feuding siblings, so the more specific your language the better things will be.

You can even identify what items you want to go to which children. You can will all your jewelry to one daughter, your automobile to another and so on if you want to be very specific about where all your possessions will go. You will also want to make proper arrangements for the proceeds of your retirement account and 401(k) plan. This might mean that it is best for you to set up a trust with these funds to give money to your spouse or children until their death. With the help of a knowledgeable attorney, you will be able to carefully construct a will that includes all the parties you want to include form your blended family. Talk to a probate attorney for more information!