Blended families are the norm now, and these situations can make estate planning more complicated than the “leave it to Beaver” fantasyland. It is already tempting for many people to procrastinate about making an estate plan, but when you throw in the obvious emotional entanglements inherent in blended families, it is easy to see why one would prefer to “think about that tomorrow.”
A Texas estate planning attorney can help you untangle these complex issues and craft a tailored estate plan to meet your needs and goals. Let’s jump right into the concept of estate planning for blended families: pitfalls and solutions.
Why Estate Planning in a Blended Family Can Get Sticky
So, you have adult children who have spent their entire lives assuming that they would be your heirs one day. Then, you meet someone new and get married. It can be difficult enough being a stepparent, but when the stepchildren see you as a gold digger who plans to steal their inheritance, the plot thickens.
Some people try to avoid these situations by signing prenuptial agreements. The problem is that many of these documents contain language that awards a set percentage to the spouse for each year that the newlyweds stay married. In other words, if the couple stays together for 10 years, under the prenup, the spouse could have a claim against the estate for 100% of the widow or widower’s share if the agreement specified 10 percent per year of marriage.
Sadly, the happiness of their older parent finding a new love often gets overshadowed by the financial concerns of the children. Sometimes, a rift develops with the adult children on one side and the parent and stepparent on the other.
Also, these problems can arise when one or both new spouses have younger children. Further complicating the situation is when the new couple has a child together, and one or both of them have children from previous relationships. If the couple tries to apportion a share to each child of each parent, does the child they have together get double?
Another massive pitfall in these situations is the fact that both spouses come into the new marriage with some existing property. Usually, it does not take long for them to acquire property together as a married couple. Splitting up the assets one day through the estate plan property distribution will be a challenge at best.
One of the best ways to avoid problems or minimize the impact of the pitfalls is to address things head-on, rather than to ignore them and hope for the best. Everyone’s situation is different, and you should always do what makes sense for you and your family. Here are a few suggestions of ways to address estate planning in blended families:
- Keep the doors of communication open with all the parties involved. Each parent might want to talk with their biological children separately before having a group conversation. Talk to the children about what they think would be fair. They might surprise you.
- Work with a professional to develop an estate plan that works for you and your family. This is no time to try to be your own lawyer or handle your estate plan as a DIY project. The legal fees you will pay to have the job done right the first time will be an investment in preventing problems for your loved ones.
- Consider using a professional fiduciary, either an individual or a company or firm, to serve as your trustee. This strategy avoids one family feeling as if the other family is bossing them around or having an unfair amount of power over them.
The best place to start this process is by talking to a Texas estate planning attorney. Get in touch with our office today, we offer a free consultation.