Just about everyone who has kids or owns some property needs to have serious discussions about having at least some form of estate plan, but blended families especially require proper estate planning.
A blended family can take many forms: young couples, older couples, adult or minor children, and a mix of children from previous marriages and children from the current marriage.
In the situations in which a spouse is around the same age as some of the children, there is a heightened possibility of friction and tension between the children and the younger spouse.
In blended family situations, parents often want their property go to their children, not their stepchildren. However, if the blended couple does not create a personalized estate plan, it is possible that their respective children will not inherit their assets. Further, if the couple creates the well known “I love you” wills (which says that the surviving spouse receives all of the deceased spouse’s assets and can therefore do anything they want with the assets), it is highly likely that the deceased spouse has actually disinherited their children completely. And the surviving spouse probably wants to pass their assets to their own children, not their step-children (and the deceased spouse’s children).
Estate Planning Can Get Ugly In a Blended Family
It is well known that our lifespan has greatly increased in the last few generations. The Federal Census Bureau estimates that the average age in which a woman becomes a widow is 55. Divorce has hovered somewhere between 40-50% for several years. Also, we are trending to remarrying later in life. All these factors create the reality that blended families are prevalent, as are the unique questions that come with that. A USA Today article, “With More Blended Families, Estate Planning Gets Ugly,” discusses these problems. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/parenting-family/story/2012-03-13/With-more-blended-families-estate-planning-gets-ugly/53516094/1?csp=34news.)
The article argues, “[a]dd the gaping generational divide between Depression-era parents, who valued frugality above all else, and their Baby Boomer children, who relish self-reward, and the dynamics can be explosive.”
Basically, children who are of the baby boomer generation who are expecting to receive an inheritance from their parents are probably going to have to wait for a longer period of time than they hoped or anticipated.
An additional situation that can cause problems is whether the step-children should pay for their step-parent (and the surviving spouse)’s long-term care. Or, should the surviving spouse’s children assume that responsibility? This situation too requires effective planning to appropriately address.
There is no one right answer here, but these questions epitomize the many questions that arise with blended families. These questions can be answered with the help of counsel and proper planning. Please contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to begin your appropriate plan.