We all know that no two families are identical. As a result, there is no such thing as a generic estate plan that works for everyone. Thus, it is important to confer with an experienced estate planning lawyer who can create an estate plan that is unique to your family’s circumstances.
Blended families are increasingly common, and their legal issues can be complicated. Second-marriage couples with children from prior marriages who are creating their estate plan should consider the following:
- Revocable trusts can be used to leave assets separately and to your surviving spouse. Upon the death of the first spouse, the trust can provide income for the surviving spouse. In a blended family situation, it is important to select the trustee carefully. The surviving spouse should not be the only trustee because you want to prevent him or her from having the ability to withdraw all the trust’s funds or disinheriting children. You may also want to give children a bequest upon the first death. This allows the children to receive something in case the surviving spouse uses all the trust funds.
- Consider drafting a joint trust that is irrevocable upon the first spouse’s death. Once the first spouse dies, the trust becomes irrevocable, which means it cannot be altered. You may want to grant the children from your prior relationship a bequest upon the first death.
- Second-marriage couples may consider opening a separate bank account. When assets are jointly owned by spouses, including bank accounts, the funds automatically transfer to the surviving spouse upon the death of the other spouse. If each spouse has a separate bank account or brokerage account, they can name their children from their first marriage as beneficiaries.
- It is important for blended families to discuss funeral and burial plans while everyone is healthy. While this can be difficult, it is important for each spouse to let their children (and anyone else who may be involved) know what their wishes are for when they die. In other words, will they be buried with their first or second spouse? Do they want to be cremated? Making these decisions ahead of time can ensure that your family members understand your wishes and do not end up fighting in the end.
- Double-check all your beneficiary designations. You do not want anyone to feel left out or be surprised by your beneficiary designations when you pass. Your beneficiary designations will override an estate plan, so make sure all bank accounts, IRAs, insurance and other account beneficiary designations are current and the way you want them.
If you are interested in creating an estate plan for your blended family, or if your estate plan is more than three years old, contact The Nice Law Firm for assistance. Our attorneys will help protect your assets and ensure that your executor is prepared to administer your estate. Note: The recent pandemic has dramatically increased awareness of the need for estate planning — for all ages, not just the elderly. Yet, current conditions do not permit the scheduling of a traditional office visit. We want you to know that we are at work every day and that The Nice Law Firm has the technology available to have a “face to face” meeting without meeting in person. Using the telephone, email, and Zoom video, we can meet and listen to your concerns, on your schedule, in the convenience of your own home.