Estate Planning for a Blended Family
Oct. 12, 2023
We all know families can be a complicated social group to be a part of, but also one of the most fulfilling. As our lives get more complicated, so can our family structures, especially for those who remarry and start a blended family. This can make tasks like writing wills and trusts much more complex and contentious. In fact, a study done by WealthCounsel found that 53% of people who’ve established a trust did so specifically to avoid family conflict.
If you’d like to learn more about estate planning for a blended family, call us at Davidson Estate Law. From our offices in Oakland, California, we’re able to help those in Walnut Creek, Berkeley, San Francisco, El Cerrito, Alameda, and throughout the Bay Area.
Why Estate Planning Is Important in Blended Families
Estate planning is important for all families, but if you’re part of a blended family, there are unique considerations to keep in mind. Most people enter into blended families when they’re on their second marriage and have children from their previous relationship. Furthermore, you may end up having more children with your new partner, growing your family even larger. This means you’ll have three sets of kids that all may require different planning. Updating your will for your new spouse and stepchildren should be at the top of your to-do list once you get remarried.
Estate Planning Challenges for a Blended Family
Because you now have a more complex family structure, this means you’ll also encounter more estate planning challenges in blended families than you would in a traditional family. Some of these may include:
Ex-spouse: It’s likely that both partners have an ex-spouse, so you’ll need to ensure they’re removed from all estate-planning documents as well as investments, insurance policies, or pensions where they were the named beneficiary.
New spouse: Carefully consider how to include your new spouse in your estate plan and ensure you know all their financial details including debts. In some cases, if you don’t plan correctly, you could inadvertently leave all your assets to your new partner while your children don’t get anything.
Children: You may wish to evenly divide your assets among all your children, no matter if they belong to you, your new spouse, or both of you. What’s more likely is you’ll consider the needs of each child and other forms of inheritance they’re in line for. For instance, if you have children from a previous marriage, your ex-spouse may also leave them assets.
Options for the Estate Plan
A complete estate plan should ideally include several documents:
Will: Almost every estate plan should start with a will which allows you to assign certain assets to a beneficiary and name a legal guardian for any minor children.
Trust: Trusts are a popular option for blended families because they offer more flexibility. For instance, if you want to leave the bulk of your assets to your children, but set aside some for your new spouse, a trust helps protect this money without infringing on your children’s inheritance.
Power of Attorney: Many people name their spouse as power of attorney, but this could be anyone. The important thing is that you name someone you trust.
Common Mistakes That Are Made in Estate Planning for Blended Families
The biggest mistake you can make when estate planning for your new family is failing to use an estate planning attorney. Estate plans are complicated enough on their own, and when bringing two families together, you need a professional to ensure you accurately reflect your needs.
The next important thing is to ensure any previous documents have been updated or replaced with new ones. This includes updating beneficiaries and removing anyone you no longer wish to leave assets to.
Lastly, you shouldn’t feel compelled to treat all your heirs equally, as some children may simply not need as much as others, or they may be receiving assets from their other parent too.
Turn to Our Attorneys for Guidance
If you’re in the Oakland, California, area and want to learn more about the special considerations to take when estate planning for a blended family, contact our team at Davidson Estate Law.