blended family

Items to consider when forming an estate plan as a blended family

How do you develop an estate plan when you have a blended family?

This is a question I’ve seen more often over the past few years, and it’s one that deserves careful consideration. Here are five things to think about:

Where there’s a will, there’s a way … but the way might be more complicated.

Simply put, the more complex your family is, the more detailed your will may need to be.

There are a lot of factors that come into play.

How close are you to your step-children? Have you raised them from a young age or did you get married (or remarried) later in life and “inherit” them as adults?

Speaking of which, if you were to pass away today, are they capable of making it on their own? If not, how obligated do you feel to continue caring for them? 

How much do you trust your spouse?

Remember the scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne asks the prison guard how much he trusts his wife … and then almost gets thrown off the roof? I do, too.

So I’ll tread lightly. I know I’m asking a dangerous question here. But it’s one you need to ask yourself. If you decide to leave everything to your spouse, you need to know that he or she could cut your children out of his or her will.

Your spouse could remarry and then leave part of your estate to her new partner’s children. As I said, this process can be complicated. But if you have everything in writing, you can relax — just like Andy Dufresne and his prison buddies drinking beers. 

The children – specifically your children – are the future.

As much as you love your spouse, you need to consider the possibility that you’re closer to him or her than your children are. When writing your will, you may want to carve out a portion that goes directly to your children. This will prevent putting them in the awkward position of having to request funds from their step-parent. 

Competence is key.

With any will, you want to make sure you’ve got an attorney who understands local laws and an executor who will carefully carry out your wishes.

But a blended family can often bring convoluted and intricate instructions … and that will require extreme attention to detail.

Make sure you hire an attorney with experience in this area. Your attorney will help you appoint an executor who can properly protect your estate. 

Be realistic.

OK, now you really may want to throw me off of a roof, but I feel obligated to point out some statistics when it comes to families, particularly blended ones.

While it’s tough to get a definite number, it has been estimated that half of marriages end in divorce – and an even higher percentage of second marriages end in divorce.

When you’re madly in love, these numbers don’t matter. I could tell you that 99 percent of marriages end in divorce and you’d be certain that you’re in the 1 percent. And maybe you are. But in the event that you aren’t, you need to have a plan to protect yourself and your children.

It’s not a comfortable conversation to have, but I’m here to listen and I look forward to helping.