Estate Planning for Blended Families

Not every blended family is going to look like the Brady Bunch. There are numerous aspects of forming a new family that can create challenges. Everything from the number and age of the children to the attitudes and actions of the other biological parents as well as the respective financial statuses of the new couple. The new couple will have separate property and may or may not be planning to have community property. The new couple will need to determine how they want to provide for each other, their own children, their step children and any children they have together. While taking care of your spouse and the children may be a top priority, implementation can be rocky. The following is a guide to help you take on some of the issues associated with planning for your new family.

Communication

The first step is to have an open and honest conversation with your new spouse about your current finances, goals for the future and how you see your assets being distributed. Sometimes this conversation is a time to discuss what legal documents include your ex. You’ve combined your life with someone new and need to make sure all documents reflect this. Bring these legal documents when discussing your options. Recognize this should not be a single conversation but a dialogue that will continue throughout your life. Your goals may change over time based on the duration of the marriage, the age of the children and the nature of the assets to be distributed.

Wills
A will is important for everyone, but they are critical for a blended family and simplifies the probate process for your beneficiaries. A properly executed Will assures that your property passes to the loved ones of your choosing. Sometimes people forget to change their will when they get divorced and remarry. Joining together a new family is an excellent time to revisit the issue because you may want to treat your minor children with your current spouse differently than your adult children from a previous relationship. You may also want to include step-children, who would not be included under the law.

Trusts

If you want to provide for both your spouse and your children should something happen to you, then outright gifts of property may not be the best solution. Many blended families use trusts to provide for a spouse, while simultaneously ensuring their children end up with property as well.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives a trusted individual the ability to make decisions for you. Each document will perform exactly as the title suggests. While Texas gives very broad authority to your spouse if you are unable to act, there are some exceptions and your spouse may not be the best person to take action. Additionally, if something should happen to both you and your spouse, you may need someone else to take over the decision making. If you want to name your adult children, step-children or siblings to act on your behalf, you need to document your wishes.

Taking Care of Minor Children

If you have minor children and your former spouse has been removed as a legal guardian or is no longer living, it is important to have a plan for their future should something happen to you . Minors are not legally able to control assets and a guardian may have to be appointed by the court to manage any assets until the minor turns 18. There are ways to avoid court intervention while allowing your child to benefit from the legacy you will leave them. An attorney can explain your options and help determine your best strategy.

Personal Information and Contacts

You and your new spouse may still be learning about each other, and that may include details about financial assets. Now is the time to share information regarding your 401k and bank account information. It could also be time to make changes or transfer those accounts. It will be so helpful for your grieving spouse and family to not have to play detective after your death.

Hire and Attorney

Every state has different requirements regarding who will have the right to make decisions if you should become incapacitated or pass away. It’s important to talk to an attorney to develop a plan that meets the needs of your unique family situation. You don’t want to make promises to loved-ones and then have a plan that leaves them high-and-dry.

For more detailed information on planning for a blended family CLICK HERE.