Planning For Blended Families

Planning for Blended Families

Serving Clients in New York City and the New York Metropolitan Area

Whether due to the death of a spouse, as a result of divorce and remarriage, or the creation of a domestic partnership, including same-sex relationships, blended, and non-traditional families, you need to plan ahead.Today these alternate family styles now outnumber traditional nuclear families. Based on current statistics and trends, that number is likely to grow. Many blended families face unique challenges, and over 60% of second marriages and later life relationships end in divorce or termination.

If you already have an estate plan created when you were previously married or in a former relationship, we can help you bring it up to date to reflect your new life. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the critical estate planning challenges confronting blended families, including disinheriting your ex-spouse, protecting your own child(ren), and integrating stepchild(ren).

Without proper legal planning, your ex-spouse (as surviving parent/guardian) would likely be appointed by the probate court to manage the inheritance you leave to your minor child(ren). To make matters worse, what if your child(ren) later predeceases you or dies without a spouse or children? Who would inherit your assets left to them? That is right … your ex-spouse, as  next-of-kin of your child(ren). You need to create an alternate plan and make your wishes clear in your Last Will and Testament or Trust.

Chances are you made a few solemn promises to your new spouse on your wedding day to care and to personally and financially provide for them. In the absence of a premarital agreement to maintain separate assets, most spouses in blended families tend to blend their wealth. For example, they title their respective assets in the names of both spouses and also designate one another as the primary beneficiary of their respective retirement plans and life insurance policies.

Warning: If you predecease your new spouse, this joint plan with your new spouse may forever disinherit your children from their share of such blended wealth! Upon the death of your new spouse, your assets may be inherited by your stepchildren, or even by your new spouse’s next spouse and their children. Another issue to consider is whether your children are ready and mature enough to inherit your estate upon your death. Do you need Trusts for your children up to a certain age? Yes, things can get complicated – and fast!

Regardless of whether children are reared in a traditional nuclear family or in a blended family, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for your spouse and from them. Wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can end up opposite of your wishes.  Besides just spending, an inheritance can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies.

Fortunately, with proper (and careful) estate planning, you can both honor your vows to your new spouse/partner and provide an inheritance that is protected and distributed in accordance with your wishes with the help of a skilled attorney and an estate plan designed to do both.

Some Examples of Legal Planning Tools For Blended Families Are:

  • Revocable Trust with marital assets going into a separate support Trust for your spouse
  • IRA Conduit Trusts to name multiple beneficiaries, not a direct inheritance to just spouse
  • Trusts for children and grandchildren created in your Will to be managed for them until a certain age
  • Life Estates for the marital home to protect your spouse’s right to live there but passes the title to your children at the spouse’s death
  • Life Insurance is planning to replace inheritance. If your estate is not large enough to both support your surviving spouse and give an inheritance to your own children, a life insurance policy paid out to the surviving spouse can add to your estate size and solve the dilemma
  • Tax Issues and Capital Gains analysis need to be considered in dividing up assets among your heirs. Certain assets come with present or future tax implications and impact the inheritance value of these assets

Call Grimaldi Yeung Law Group today for assistance.

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