The structure of families has changed in the United States: According to statistics cited by the Pew Research Center, six out of ten women who remarry are in blended families, and in about half of those remarriages, stepchildren live with the remarried couple. If you or your grown children are part of a blended family, your estate planning should reflect the special considerations and complexities involved.

Identify Your Goals

Each family has its own dynamics and priorities—and blended families add another dimension that must be considered as you create or update your estate plan. Many factors will have an impact on your estate planning decisions, especially when you remarry and your new spouse has children, or if one of your adult children is in that situation. The decision about whether to provide for your stepchildren or step-grandchildren in your will or trust is an important and often emotionally difficult decision. The following factors are among those in play:

Age

When you remarry, the ages of both you and your new spouse and the ages of your stepchildren often have an impact on estate planning decisions. If you and your new spouse are older and both financially independent, and all of your children are adults, it may make sense for each of you to leave your assets to your own natural heirs. However, if you and your new spouse are young adults, and your spouse’s children are quite young, it is more likely your new spouse and stepchildren will be dependent on you for financial support and that you will play a significant role in raising your stepchildren. Your decision will depend upon the unique situation of your blended family.

Importance of bloodline

For some people, it is very important that their own children or grandchildren receive the bulk of their money and property. This may be the case even in situations where younger stepchildren are involved and their relationship with those children is strong.

Relationship

Unfortunately, some people simply do not get along with their new spouse’s children or their step-grandchildren. Or, if the stepchildren are grown and live in a distant state or another country, there may not be much of a relationship at all. If this is the case, they may feel less inclined to provide for the stepchildren in their estate plan. In contrast, other individuals come to view their stepchildren with as much love and affection as they do their own children and may want to reflect this relationship in their estate plan.

Heirlooms or other personal property

If one of your ancestors brought a special piece of furniture or jewelry from Ireland in the 1850s that has been passed down through the generations, you may want to ensure that it goes to your own children or grandchildren or to another blood relative when you pass away rather than to your new spouse and ultimately to

Your Stepchildren

This may also be the case if you have items that belonged to a deceased spouse that are of sentimental value to your own children or other family members.

It is important to keep in mind that unless you have adopted your stepchildren, they generally have no legal right to inherit anything from you at your passing. Similarly, if you are a grandparent, your step-grandchildren will have no legal right to inherit from you if your child has not adopted them. If you want to leave money or property to them, you must specifically name them in your will or trust.

If you would like to ensure that your stepchildren or step-grandchildren are treated in the way you intend, it is important to consult us so that we can design or update your estate plan in a way that reflects your wishes.

We Can Help Design a Successful Estate Plan for Your Blended Family

If your family is one of millions of blended families in our country today, we can help you create or amend your estate plan to ensure that your wishes for your stepchildren or step-grandchildren, as well as other family members, are carried out after you pass away. Please call us today to set up an appointment so we can discuss your unique circumstances and goals and the best tools for accomplishing your wishes for your blended family.

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