Times have changed. In the new millennium, whether due to the death of a spouse or through divorce, blended families now outnumber traditional nuclear families. And the number is likely to grow, based on current statistics and trends.
Many blended families face unique social, psychological and economic challenges. As a result, over 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations and support groups dedicated to helping blended families with these challenges.
Blended Families are NOT One-Size-Fits-All
If you already have an estate plan created from when you were “previously” married, then we can help bring it up-to-date to reflect your new wedding vows. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the critical estate planning challenges confronting blended families. These challenges include disinheriting your ex-spouse and protecting your own children.
Avoid Unintended Consequences
Without proper legal planning, your ex-spouse (as surviving parent/guardian) would likely be appointed by the probate court to manage the inheritance you leave to your minor children. To make matters worse, what if your children later predecease your ex-spouse, and are single and childless at that time? Who would inherit your assets then? Without proper planning, it could be your ex-spouse.
The Risks of Blended Wealth
Blended families often involve blended wealth. In the absence of a premarital agreement to maintain separate assets, most spouses in blended families tend to blend their property and finances. For example, they title their respective assets in the names of both spouses and also designate one another as the primary beneficiary of their respective retirement plans and life insurance policies.
Warning: If you predecease your new spouse, then you may forever disinherit your own children from your share of such blended wealth! Thereafter, upon the death of your new spouse, your assets may be inherited by your stepchildren, or even by your new spouse’s next spouse and their children. Yes, things can get out of control – and fast!
Protecting Children from Themselves
Regardless of whether children are raised in a traditional nuclear family or in a blended family, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. For starters, wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered in very short order. Dollars earned just spend differently than dollars inherited. In addition to good old-fashioned squandering, an inheritance can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies.
There is a Solution
Fortunately, with the help of an estate planning attorney experienced in counselling blended families, you can both honor your vows to your new spouse and provide an inheritance that is protected for your own children.