Divorce and remarriage are more common than ever today. Blended families require extra attention from estate planning attorneys, but this extra attention to detail is crucial to avoiding costly legal fees for probate litigation and more.
Prenuptial Agreements are Your Friends
Two people blending a family can protect their goals and financial resources by entering into a prenuptial agreement. While a prenup may not be necessary for couples entering a first marriage, for a second marriage or any more after that there are all sorts of complex issues that may make such an agreement not only useful but necessary.
- Before getting married, people should discuss estate issues with their new intended spouse;
- A prenup ensures that both parties enter into the relationship with a clear understanding of assets and intentions;
- Both sides have a chance to discuss this plan with an attorney.
Separate Checking & Savings Accounts
We encourage newly married couples to clarify any ground rules up front regarding “yours,” “mine,” and “ours” in order to avoid confusion. Understanding each other’s finances is key to avoiding fights down the road. Many people will start out having separate checking and savings accounts, primarily using them to pay for personal expenses, including those for children from a previous marriage. Don’t combine your accounts before speaking to an attorney!
If you choose to maintain a joint account for ongoing expenses as a couple, it’s important to discuss how much each spouse is going to contribute monthly – an equal amount or a percentage.
Update End-of-Life Medical Documents
Who gets to make end-of-life decisions? If people don’t put their wishes in writing, their loved ones can be left with legal disputes and family fights at one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Talk with your future spouse about this issue.
Children from a previous marriage may have very different ideas about who should make decisions about health care and what decisions should occur. Without specifying those wishes in a living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, you are looking at thousands in potential litigation.
Update Your Will & Other Documents
In our experience, the ugliest family disputes that occur after someone passes away are not about money but possessions with sentimental value. Even the smallest item can have a significant emotional value, and squabbles over these belongings can cause rifts that are difficult to heal. Discuss your intentions with your family BEFORE you pass away.
Trusts should be as specific as possible about what each beneficiary is to receive. Once again, add this to your discussion.
For those who wish to leave assets to stepchildren, it’s important to include those directives in the trust or will. Stepchildren are not generally considered legal heirs, and they won’t inherit anything without being named in these documents. This is a rue awakening to those who don’t receive an inheritance when expected.
Estate plans can also become complex when a person wants to provide for his or her surviving spouse and still give the children access to inheritances as soon as possible.
For people with children by a previous marriage, a trust can be a good way to protect their inheritance. It can also be used to help ensure that any previous spouses or step-children who were part of that marriage are not inadvertently disinherited by the new relationship.
Prevent Legal Issues For Your Blended Family – Talk To Professionals
Experienced estate planning attorneys understand the unique challenges facing blended families. If you need to discuss the use of trusts or other asset protection strategies, please contact our office. We encourage people to have discussions and to communicate clearly with loved ones about their final goal: a happily blended family that remains a family after the parents have passed.
Avoid litigation. Plan Ahead. I’m glad to help you with questions about preventing legal problems for your blended family. Give me a call at the Weaver Firm – Attorneys at 817-683-9016 or visit WeaverLegal.net to learn more about our services.
Travis Weaver, Attorney