Blended families can present a variety of wonderful opportunities to expand your relationships and elevate your life experiences, but they may also present some headaches in terms of your estate planning. Estate planning for your blended family is important to ensure that these valued relationships can be acknowledged as well.
Rather than trying to figure out how to include your new blended family into your estate plan, we recommend you discuss your thoughts and concerns with an experienced estate planning lawyer, like Carlsbad estate planning attorney, Andrew Fesler. Whenever you have important life events like a new marriage, a divorce, or a new baby, it’s best to update your plan including your will, trust, and important documents like Durable Power of Attorney. Your estate plan for a blended family may present some challenges as you want to protect children from a previous relationship while still making provisions for your new spouse, stepchildren, and any new children from your current relationship.
So Many Decisions
Blended families get created through the joining of two families. The most common blended family situations are second marriages with adult children from a prior marriage. The next most common are non-traditional families where a couple lives together and do not get married and create a home with children from previous relationships as part of the family unit.
A blended family can also be thought of as including the extended members of the couple such as parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents – you get the idea. When you marry a new spouse or join in a committed relationship with your beloved, frequently this means gaining extended family members as part of the deal.
Blended family estate planning presents its own unique challenges. You need to consider which children will be beneficiaries, which must be provided for, and whether your stepchildren are to also receive part of your assets or if that will be the responsibility of their actual biological parents. Working with your attorney you can create an estate plan that meets your unique needs for your family and potential heirs.
Are You Required to Have an Estate Plan?
California does not require you to have an estate plan but if you are smart, you should. This is particularly important with blended families. If you should pass without a will, for example, your estate will not necessarily go to whom you want or to who needs to be provided for. California, like other states, has inheritance laws that dictate who will inherit your property should you die without a will. Dying without a will is called intestate. “Intestate succession” laws decide who will receive your property. The order of succession usually prioritizes your surviving spouse or domestic partner, followed by your children, then parents, siblings, and extended family members. But it is not worth taking the chance that the probate court will know what you would have wanted. Creating a comprehensive estate plan allows you to make sure your wishes are known and executed.
With the variety of today’s family units, a one size fits all type of plan is definitely not a good option. In fact, in California, where probate court can take a long time, be expensive, and your private information becomes public, trusts are now the more popular and efficient way to distribute assets to beneficiaries upon your death, instead of a will. A trust is the best way to make sure there is a trouble-free transfer of assets and avoid the probate process.
Things to Consider
Blended family estate planning should start with meeting with your attorney to go over any current estate plan documents and updating them to reflect your current situation. For example, you may have listed your dad as the primary beneficiary of your estate before your remarried. Now you may want your estate or the bulk of it to go to your spouse.
Ideally, you will want to update your plan as soon as you can upon formally entering a new marriage or joining as a couple with your domestic partner. You want to update the plan to reflect your wishes in consideration of your new status. After that, if you and your partner should have new children, you will need to update your plan again. As always, significant life events often make updates necessary.
For example, you may become a grandparent and now there are even more beneficiaries that you will want included in your plan. Because your blended family is special you can have other family members such as a disabled niece or nephew. There may be a lot of considerations that have to be made and they are best made by discussing it with the legal guidance of a good estate planning attorney.
Contact Us Today
If you are considering remarriage or have married or have a committed relationship and a blended family you want to protect, talk with Attorney Andrew Fesler. As a sole practitioner, he has the ultimate quality control over his practice and the service to his clients. He does it all personally, affordably, and to a high level of excellence. At every turn, he will spend the time to make sure his clients understand and are comfortable with, every aspect of their plan and documents. Please contact our office to learn more about blended family estate planning. Contact the Law Office of Andrew Fesler today by calling (760) 444-0943. We look forward to helping you and your family.