Lots of Americans have seen or heard about the TV series “The Brady Bunch” and typically, this series goes to show that there is every likelihood for disagreement and rivalry amongst members and children in blended families. How do you as a parent resolve these differences between your own kids and your spouse’s? If there is rivalry, then how do you protect the interest of your own kids when you die amd your spouse becomes your personal representative with rights to your property? He or she could easily convert your property to become the inheritance of his/her own children and leave very little or nothing for your own kids. As ugly and wicked as this may seem, it is not just plausible but probable and actually has happened in some families. The best way to prevent dysfunction and feuds in blended families after one spouse passes away is to create an estate plan.
Estate planning for blended families is quite unique and should be tailored to take care of the particular family’s structure, minimize the risks of jealousy and family feuds when it comes down to asset distribution amongst the survivors. Even in creating an estate plan, when certain salient issues are not addressed, then the estate plan would simply be a recipe for disaster.
Planning for blended families involves balancing a lot of interests, feelings and goals. Like the Brady Bunch family, trying to satisfy everyone may even seem like a wild goose chase. In this light, it becomes expedient for one to seek the professional advice and assistance of an estate planning lawyer who have worked with other blended families and had successfully achieved their financial goals.
The good news is that there are tips with which you can create an estate plan to address your unique blended family situation. Having the right estate plan can help you protect your children’s financial future while still providing for your spouse after your death.
Not having an estate plan at all will most likely add to your blended family dysfunction. So long your surviving spouse has the right to act as your personal representative at your death, what becomes of your own kids? Often, a neutral representative may then be hired to administer the estate, but this may be costly and if you thought you saved money by avoiding estate planning, then the purpose has been defeated.
Proper estate planning becomes highly essential when financial accounts are jointly owned by both spouses because everything will go into the hands of the surviving spouse at the death of one spouse and not into the Family Trust. They can do with it whatever they want, and may even exclude the deceased partner’s kids from inheriting from the family assets.
In a family where there are older children from the previous marriage and younger ones from the current marriage, the estate plan may be such that the younger children are provided with more funds as they would have more needs than the older ones. If this is the case, a simple estate plan providing equal shares for all children would be unfair if you have kids with large age difference.
In some blended families, there are “his/her” children, others have “his/her/ours”, amongst other combinations. However, it could be a decision for both spouses to treat all the kids with equal love as if they were their own. In their estate plan, it has to be stated that all the children are to be treated the same. If not, the traditional definition of “children” would nullify their wishes.
In estate planning, another important tip blended families have to consider is a “prenuptial agreement”. Contrary to popular belief, prenuptial agreement is not only associated with divorce but goes a long way in protecting a person’s right to distribute his or her own property however he or she desires. Prenuptial agreement between blended couples becomes highly essential because the State laws provide that spouses have a certain level of right and influence over each other’s assets. This law gives a spouse more advantage in inheriting assets accumulated by their spouse prior to the marriage even more than the children which their spouse is bringing into the new marriage. Having a prenuptial agreement eliminates this statutory right and gives each spouse full right to transfer his or her own property in the manner he/she so desires.
Blended families are unique, beautiful and interesting, and presents a symbol of new beginnings, but when thoughtful considerations of proper estate planning are not put in place, the children and the family in its entirety may suffer on the long run. There are estate planning lawyers who have worked with blended families to proffer lasting solutions to avoid any family feud that may arise in the future. Consult one today.