Blended Families and Estate Planning

It is common knowledge that the divorce rate in the United States is close to 50%.  While a divorce is an emotional and financial hardship for all involved, the good news is that many people who divorce go on to recover emotionally and remarry.  A remarriage is a new beginning for you and your new spouse.  There are many issues to be attended to, however, with a blended family.  If you have a blended family, you need to make sure you talk to your attorney about estate planning.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning at its core is simply creating a plan for your future and that of your family.  Your estate is comprised of everything you own, including real estate, cars, personal property, and liquid assets.  An estate plan creates a way for you to dictate how those assets will be managed both before and after you die.

What is in an Estate Plan?

Just as every family is unique, so, too, is every estate plan.  What your attorney will recommend will depend not only one what is contained in your estate, but also on what you have as goals for yourself and your family.  Common elements of an estate plan include a last will and testament, revocable or irrevocable trusts, a power of attorney, or a power of attorney for healthcare.

Why an Estate Plan is Especially Important for a Blended Family

An estate plan is especially important for a blended family.  If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy.  The laws of intestacy state how your assets will be distributed, and in New Jersey, this means to your closest blood relatives, such as your spouse, biological children, or even your parents and siblings.  Note that no provisions are made, for example, for any step-children

What is the First Step?

The first step to creating your blended family estate plan is to retain the services of an experienced attorney.  Your attorney will review the contents of your estate and your goals to help you construct a personalized estate plan.  With the proper steps, you can make sure to provide stability not only for yourself, but also the proper members of your current family.

Providing for Children from a Prior Relationship

One important reason to create an estate plan is to make sure your children from a prior relationship are provided for in the way you want.  Without a will or estate plan, if you die, the majority of your assets will pass directly to your spouse.  Once the assets belong to your spouse, then he or she can dispose of them as he or she wishes.  This can often mean that your children are left out of a substantial portion of the inheritance you intended them to receive, as your spouse is not obligated to leave those assets to your children in his or her estate plan.

Providing for Step-Children

Another reason you need an estate plan if you have a blended family is if you want to provide assets to your step-child after you pass away.  Without an estate plan, there is no statute or case law to provide that your step-child will automatically inherit from your estate.  Especially when you have formed a deep connection with your step-child, you may wish to help make sure that he or she has a stable financial future.  An estate plan is an essential step to make sure that is accomplished.

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