estate planning for blended families

Estate Planning Considerations for Blended Families

There are a lot of factors to weigh when you’re building your estate plan. It gets even more complex when you are estate planning for a blended family. When people come into a marriage with separate assets and their own children, it’s harder to determine how to divide those assets and shared assets. That’s why it’s important to work with an estate planning attorney from the very beginning.

The team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short is here to help you find an estate plan that meets your family’s needs. Schedule a consultation with our team now by calling us at 334-821-3892.

You Have More People to Consider

One of the main reasons that estate planning is so much harder for blended families is that you simply have more people’s needs to consider. It’s possible that you both have your own children that you brought into the marriage.

Some couples then go on to have additional children together. Balancing the various needs of all of these people, plus your obligation to each individual is a massive task. This is one of the benefits of working with an estate planning lawyer from the start. Rather than trying to sort it out on your own, you can hash these issues out with a professional who has seen similar cases.

Consider the Status of Your Assets

A lot depends on just how blended your family is. For example, some couples combine their assets when they marry—no matter how much they each brought in individually, they consider it all marital property.

Others strive to keep some differentiation between their separate assets and marital assets, often to protect their separate assets for the benefit of the children they bring into the first marriage. As you catalog your assets, you’ll need to determine which are separate, which are marital, and what that means for how they will be divided.

Prepare for Tough Conversations

There’s always the possibility for tough or emotional conversations when you’re working on your estate. These conversations are even more likely when you’re estate planning with a blended family.

Some beneficiaries may have thought that they were going to receive more than they actually are, and that may raise some tough questions about their role in the family. For example, if one parent saved more for their children from their first marriage than the other parent, that may lead to some differences in how assets are distributed.

This doesn’t mean that you need to develop your estate plan with the sole goal of eliminating hurt feelings, but it does mean you should be ready to explain your decisions and the breakdown of your marital assets versus your separate assets. In some cases, these discussions reveal that some children feel like they aren’t as valued as others in the family, or other beliefs that you may need to work through.

Weigh the Different Needs of Each Beneficiary

Even when you don’t have a blended family, a one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning rarely works. Your children, even if they’re grown, likely have different needs. For example, if you have a family business and one child has a hands-on role in the business, it makes sense that they receive a bigger share of the business upon your passing. Otherwise, they could be set up to fail when they become equal owners with siblings who aren’t interested in the business.

Some individuals have to plan around their children’s struggles. For example, if you have a child with a history of substance abuse or poor financial decisions, you may be wary of giving them their entire inheritance at once. A trust that disburses money at set periods of time or after certain milestones are met may be a better option.

With a blended family, it’s almost certain that you’ll have to make some of these decisions. Be prepared to do some thinking and negotiating as you and your partner explore your options.

Consult the Team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short

When you’re ready to move forward with your estate plan, we’re here to talk. Set up a consultation with our team to discover estate planning options that suit your needs. Call us at 334-821-3892 or send us a message online to get started.

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