Have you been married more than once? Did you bring along any children from a previous marriage? Did your spouse? If so, you’re part of a blended family. By learning the basics of estate planning for blended families now, you can enjoy plenty of peace of mind in the future.
What Is a Blended Family?
As its name suggests, a blended family differs from the traditional family structure. A blended family can come in many forms: :
- A married couple where either one or both of the spouses has children from a previous marriage.
- A family with children who are in their second or subsequent marriage. These children have children from previous marriages.
- A family with children whose spouse has children from a previous marriage.
As you can see, the more the blended family branches off, the more complex the situation becomes. Such complexity can create issues down the line. This complexity is what makes estate planning for blended families so tricky.
For example, spouses may create conflicts with one another. Their married children may create conflicts with their spouses. And so on. In some cases, a husband may want to provide for his wife and his children from a previous marriage. In others, he may want to provide for his wife’s children from an earlier marriage. Estate planning for blended families tackles these advances issues head-on with the help of professionals in the field.
Throughout the years, blended families have become more common. Their increased presence has led to an increase in the demand for estate planning for blended families.
The rise in divorce rates has triggered blended family growth. As more and more people divorce and remarry, they create more blended families and more complex situations as it relates to estate planning.
Nearly half of U.S. marriages end in divorce, contributing to almost 1,160,000 new divorces every year. Remarriages have an even higher divorce rate of 60%. Of all unions, 43% are remarriages for at least one of the spouses.
How long do such marriages last? Just under eight years. Once those marriages convert to divorce, they leave nearly one million children per year with divorced parents. Many of those children will see new parents soon, as it only takes five years for 54% of divorced women to find a new spouse.
How Estate Planning for Blended Families Differs From Estate Planning for Standard Families
By nature, estate planning for blended families is usually more complicated than it is for standard families. The more marriages, divorces, and children a blended family has, the harder it will be to create an estate plan for it.
In a standard family, estate planning is more likely to operate linearly. Assets usually move to the spouse, then to the children. In a blended family, those same assets can transfer to the spouse, the children, those children’s children, and so on.
Estate planning for blended families can present many obstacles. Parents may disinherit children in some cases. Assets may need protection from former spouses. Disputes may arise over the division of responsibility or authority. Some children may encounter delays in receiving their inheritance, having to wait until their parent’s spouse dies.
How to Make Estate Planning for Blending Families Easier
The best way to confront the complicated issue of estate planning for blended families is to ask yourself some simple questions, such as:
- If something serious happened to me, who would I want in charge of making my primary health care and financial decisions?
- If I passed away, how would I want my property distributed?
- Who would provide for my spouse if I passed? Would they be able to handle that responsibility?
- In the event of my death, who would provide for my children? Who would act as the guardian for my minor children?
- Could I honestly trust them to do the job correctly?
Answering those questions will undoubtedly pick your brain. They’ll make you sit down and analyze your family and those around you. It may even come to the point that you don’t want to answer some of those questions due to their difficulty. Unfortunately, you’ll have to. Without those answers, you won’t be able to plan your future.
With your answers in place, next comes the step of applying them to where you live. Individual states have laws on community property and the like that make estate planning for blended families even more difficult. Rather than trying to confront all of these issues at once, your best bet is to hire an experienced attorney in the field.
With the proper attorney in your corner, you won’t have to worry about all the details associated with estate planning for blended families. All you’ll have to worry about is answering those questions above, and deciding how you want your estate divided amongst your loved ones.