Today’s household is much more varied than it used to be. One or both spouses may have been married previously and have children from those marriages, creating a unique family unit.
But coordinating living arrangements isn’t the only challenge for blended families. Quite the contrary, creating a suitable estate plan can be quite a test as well. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to simplify the process and at least minimize feelings of resentment between siblings after you’re gone:
- A prenuptial agreement is a must, simply because you’ll want to ensure that your children from your previous marriage are adequately provided for upon your death. Without a prenuptial, your share of the estate would pass to your spouse and then when he or she dies, it would be his (or her) children that had inheritance rights – not yours. If you’re already in a blended family, a post-nuptial agreement will work just as well.
- Sit down with your spouse and figure out how you want to divide the estate among all the children. Lay it out on paper and then bring all the children into the fold. If you explain to the kids as a team, then it presents a “united front” and your children won’t feel as if you’re playing favorites to one side of the family over another.
- Choose some items that are special to you – your grandmother’s quilt for example or a sterling silver tea set and specifically designate those items to your children. Making sure that your family’s heritage doesn’t get lost in the mix is an important part of preserving your legacy for future generations. It’s also a great way to connect with your kids.
- Leave your children with video recordings and journals created especially for them. You can explain why you’ve written your Will or Trust the way you did, tell stories that you remember about them when they were little or even childhood stories of your own. Create scrapbooks that include a family tree and if you have it, the history behind that quilt or sterling silver tea set. The more thought you put into these items, the better and your children will feel the love you’re trying to convey.
- If possible, choose someone other than the step-parent to be your executor. A neutral party is ideal – your kids will be much less likely to see the distribution of assets as one-sided.
- To really preserve your assets for your children, create a trust. Your spouse can live off the interest gained from the trust, but cannot touch the original assets which funded the trust. Then when your spouse passes, the assets are distributed to your children.
A good estate planning attorney can help you create a plan that’s fair to all your family members. For more information, contact our office today.