Tips and Advice on Estate Planning for Blended Families

Tips and Advice on Estate Planning for Blended Families

When couples get together and blend their families, that often includes children from previous marriages or relationships.  This can bring great joy, but it also can bring conflicts and complications due to the various relationships, obligations, and financial considerations involved. As long as everyone is well and gets along, things may go smoothly; but how do you make sure every member of the family is treated fairly and taken care of if one spouse dies and issues arise?

The answer is to make sure you do proper estate planning now, while your mind is clear and you are able to do so. Estate planning can be complicated even for simple families, but when remarriages and new relationships are involved, it becomes more so. Making mistakes can be costly and lead to situations where some children are left without an inheritance, or the inheritance winds up in the hands of an ex-spouse.

To prevent problems, it can help to consult with an experienced Missouri estate planning lawyer who can guide you through the legal requirements in our state and come up with an estate plan tailored to your family’s unique needs. The goal is to make sure assets go where you intend them to and avoid hard feelings, probate court, and legal issues down the road.

What is a Blended Family?

A blended family occurs when people who have previously been married or in relationships that have produced children come together to form a new family. In addition to children from the previous relationships, the new partners may have children together. This means the new blended family may include half-siblings, stepchildren, ex-spouses, and current and past in-laws. The financial situation in a blended family may be complicated, as one partner may have more assets than the other or owe child support and spousal maintenance to a previous partner. In any case, it can be difficult to ensure that all children are taken care of in the event that one partner dies or become incapacitated.

Law Tips for Blended Families

Under Missouri law, you cannot disinherit your spouse; but if you don’t do things correctly, you can either unintentionally disinherit your child. For example, when spouses leave all of their estate to the other partner and that partner dies or remarries, the assets may be inherited by stepchildren, or even by the surviving spouse’s next spouse and their children. Your children from previous relationships may wind up with no inheritance at all

To avoid problems, there are things you should do, consider, and plan for when doing estate planning. The following are some tips for blended families:

  1. Confer with your spouse and discuss your individual situation. It is easiest when both spouses agree on a plan that protects each child in the family — both biological and through marriage. Discuss the issues that affect your individual family and how you will deal with them. You may need to address making pre- or post-nuptial agreements, determining who inherits what, nominating guardians, choosing an executor, making wills and trusts, updating beneficiary designations, considering life insurance and long-term care.
  2. Get legal assistance to make sure you understand Missouri law and how it applies to you. An experienced Missouri estate planning lawyer will listen to your specific family dynamics, spot any potential conflicts, and make suggestions tailored to your family’s unique needs and challenges, in accordance with Missouri law.
  3. Come up with a comprehensive plan.  Your estate planning lawyer can help you create a comprehensive plan that may include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, protecting assets, and avoiding taxes. The goal is to make sure all aspects of your estate and family needs are covered.

Estate Planning Options for Blended Families

When doing estate planning, be aware of and set up ways to deal with common pitfalls that blended families often face. There are several options you can take to avoid problems:

Have a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between two people created before they get married that usually lists each person’s assets and debts and outlines how everything will be handled in the case of death or a divorce.  A post-nuptial agreement is a similar contract made after the couple marries.

Set up a trust: A trust is an arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries. You can set up a family trust that allows all assets to go into a combined trust following the death of the first spouse and enables the surviving parent to determine how to distribute assets based on each child’s needs. You can also set up a marital trust that allows assets to pass to the surviving spouse, while at the same time earmarking any residual assets in a fair manner that includes all children in the family.

Earmark bequests in your will. Your will allows you to allocate specific assets to the child you wish to receive them to allow them to be taken care of in case of your death. Your will should designate an executor who is responsible and trustworthy and who will be able to carry out your wishes, name guardians for minor children, and allocate funds for children with special needs.

Make specific beneficiary designations. Properly designating beneficiaries on insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank and brokerage accounts, and other assets allows the beneficiary to receive these assets upon your death without going through probate.

Ensure your estate planning documents are up to date. Make sure you have protective documents such as a living will, a health care directive and medical proxy, and a power of attorney, that can spell out your wishes should you become incapacitated. Update these whenever your family situation changes.

Get Help with Estate Planning for a Blended Family

Your blended family’s future is too important to leave to chance. Cape Girardeau, MO, estate planning lawyer Kelvin Birk understands the complex issues involved with blended families and can help you develop strategies that ensure your assets go where you want them to and that your children are protected now and into the future.

Kelvin Birk is a Certified Public Accountant as well as an attorney. This unique combination provides the broad knowledge and experience to solve both legal and financial issues that arise in estate planning and family law matters.

We offer a free consultation to discuss your individual situation. For skilled and knowledgeable representation regarding all divorce and family law, child custody, and child support issues call Kelvin today at 573-332-8585.

Get Help Now 573-332-8585

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Kelvin Birk is a lawyer as well as a certified public accountant, with more than 30 years of experience in accounting and tax and business consulting, and more than 20 years of experience in numerous legal matters. This combined expertise allows our law firm to provide a level of service above that of other firms. Whatever your legal situation, your attorney at Birk Law Firm can counsel you as to the tax implications. We have experience in providing myriad legal representation services to residents of southeast Missouri and other areas.. [ Attorney Bio ]