Estate Planning When You Have A Blended Family

If you remarry and have children from both marriages, you need to change your estate. Blended families mean you have more people to think about. Of course, you could simply leave everything to your current spouse, but that's not always a good idea. If you want to ensure all of your children receive something from your estate, you have to plan. Here are some options to consider when you plan your estate for your blended family.

What Is a Blended Family and How Is It Different?

Blended families are when two families from different marriages or relationships blend together. Each blended family is unique. They may consist of biological children from a previous relationship, the biological children of your new spouse, and stepchildren.

How Does the Spouse Factor Into the Estate?

In most situations, your surviving spouse will inherit all community property upon your death. Many couples put the spouse first but specify next that after they die, the remaining assets go to the children.

That option doesn't always go the way many people might hope it will. The surviving spouse may make changes to this plan after your death. Your spouse may decide to leave everything to their own children rather than to all the children or your children from a previous marriage.

How Does One Ensure Their Children Get an Inheritance?

If you want all your children to get an inheritance, plan carefully. One way is to spell out exactly how much each person gets after your death. Another option is to use a trust to divide up the money. Name your spouse as the primary inheritor. Then, leave a provision that each child receives an inheritance after your spouse's death or after a certain time. You can also set up a trust for each child or mention them as beneficiaries of your retirement assets.

Are Stepchildren Treated Differently?

Stepchildren have no legal rights to directly inherit anything from you unless you include them in your estate plan. If you don't have a plan, the courts will divide the assets among your spouse and biological relatives. The best way to ensure a stepchild gets an inheritance is to plan for them specifically.

Estate planning for blended families does not have to be difficult. To ensure specific people get an inheritance, you need to plan carefully. If you don't plan at all, then the courts will decide, and they may not rule in the way you want. An estate planning lawyer is key to ensuring your wishes stand. Contact an estate planning lawyer when you are ready to draft a new estate plan.