If you recently entered into your second marriage and now have a blended family, you may want to spend some time with an estate planning attorney creating a new plan for the future of your family. Estate planning for blended families has challenges and differences you will not find in traditional families, and there are two key considerations you should keep in mind when planning your estate for your new family.
Fairness With Your Spouse
The first thing to consider when planning your estate is your spouse. In a traditional first marriage, this is not really an issue because everything you own belongs to both of you equally. If one spouse dies in a first marriage, the other spouse typically inherits everything you both owned; however, this is not always the case with second marriages, especially when there are children involved.
Because of this unique challenge, you must plan how you will handle fairness with your spouse, and this goes both ways. One way to determine how to handle this fairly is looking at the assets you both brought into this second marriage, and a good place to start is with the house.
There are several ways you could handle your home in your estate planning, and the option you choose will depend on your needs. For example, if you owned the house prior to this marriage, you may want to pass it along to your kids instead of to your spouse, but you might want to include some type of clause in your will. You could state, for example, that your spouse would get to remain in the house two years for every year you were married. If you were married for 10 years, he or she would be allowed to live there for 20 years in this case. If your spouse owned the house prior to the marriage, the conditions could be the same for you.
Other couples do not want to pass their homes to their children, and instead they will simply pass them to their spouse when they die. This is entirely up to you how you want to handle it, and your attorney might be able to give you additional tips and suggestions for this.
You may want to talk about each asset you own to ensure that both spouses are protected if the other one dies, and to ensure that the children are protected too.
Fairness With The Children
With a blended family and children from both spouses, creating a will is vital if you want to make sure both sets of children receive fair settlements. One of the best ways to do this is to create a list of assets each of you brought into the marriage. From there, you can decide how to handle each one. If you each have two children, you may want to combine everything you own and give 25% of all assets to each child. If one spouse is a lot wealthier than the other, you may want to ensure that this wealth is primarily transferred to the wealthy spouse's children.
In either case, it is extremely vital to include all these details and orders in your will so that your estate is handled properly if one spouse dies during the marriage.
It may also be important to talk to your attorney about a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These are designed more for marriages that end in divorces, but they can also be helpful for blended family arrangements.
If you just got married and have not begun planning for these things, you should start soon. You can begin by contacting an attorney that specializes in estate planning, such as Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP, to set up an appointment to discuss your needs and situation.