If you are remarried, how does the new marriage affect your estate planning? There are many things to consider when blending two families.
A recent article in TheStreet.com, titled "6 Things to Consider When Estate planning for Your Second Family," suggests that you first consider how long your family has been together. If you and your second spouse married when your children were still young, or if you had your own children together, your family is hopefully just one family. If you look at all of your family's kids as "our" kids, then make provisions in your estate plan that show that harmony, according to the original article. This is a truly blended family.
Estate planning should be considered as if each child was yours biologically, and your second spouse is actually your first spouse. On the other hand, if the children are adults or are nearing adulthood, then you may want to take a different approach. For example, you might choose to create separate provisions for your biological children and for your stepchildren. As with all estate planning, it is best to anticipate and avoid as many hurt feelings as you can by working through this with your estate planning attorney.
A very common way to make provisions for your stepchildren is to leave a bequest to your spouse so he or she can distribute the inheritance, instead of giving the bequest to the children yourself. Additionally, with trust planning, assets can funded to a specific trust for each “set” of children. This can prevent one set of children from being unintentionally disinherited if one spouse predeceases the other and the second spouse fails to provide any planning for the “other” children.
Another very critical reminder is to communicate with everyone—either separately or as a group. The original article advises that you talk to everyone involved and let them know what you are planning and how you want things done. Managing your family's expectations and open communication is key.
Read some of the other six tips in the original article and then consult with your estate planning attorney to properly set up your own blended family estate plan.
Reference: The Street (August 7, 2014) "6 Things to Consider When Estate planning for Your Second Family"