Updating Your Estate Plan as a Blended Family

Blended families have become more common in the U.S., with 16% of children in the country living in blended families. When you remarry, you’ll want to revisit your estate plan to ensure it reflects your wishes based on your new life circumstances.

Consider Your Children

The law can’t force your spouse to take care of your children with the assets that you transfer to them after your death. Thus, you should specifically allocate some of your wealth to your children to have complete certainty that they will have their needs met when you pass away. Consulting with an estate planning lawyer could help you figure out the best way of dividing your assets to ensure your loved ones are taken care of while minimizing taxes. Options include setting up trusts for your children, naming them as joint owners of property, and naming them beneficiaries of your life insurance policy.

Be Open With Your Spouse and Their Children

Discussing your estate plan may feel uncomfortable, especially if you know that your wishes might not be what the others want. However, it’s best to inform your blended family early on of how you intend to divide your estate. If you prefer keeping your plan a secret, then tell your family this as well. Give them as much information as you feel comfortable with to help them have more reasonable expectations.

Many children expect their parents to leave them an inheritance. With the grief and stress after a parent’s death, they may have trouble digesting the news when their parent chose not to do so. Thus, estate planning lawyers will recommend that you inform children of these choices early on to allow them to process the emotion sooner and to adjust their own financial plans with the knowledge that they aren’t receiving an inheritance. You could consult with a counselor for suggestions on how to gently break the news to your family.

Check Your Life Insurance Policy

Before you remove your former spouse or add a new child from your life insurance policy, you should check your divorce decree to make sure that you’re allowed to. If you’re not allowed to change the policy, then you may want to consider buying another life insurance plan for your current family situation.

Don’t Rely on Intestate Laws

Some people make the mistake of assuming that when they die without a will, their estate automatically goes to their children or other family members. Each state has its own intestate laws. In New Jersey, your spouse will inherit the first 25% of your estate, as long as it’s not less than $50,000 or more than $200,000, plus half of the remainder. The leftover goes to your children. These laws may not always stay the same, which is another reason why everyone should create their own estate plan.

Consider Writing a New Will

You might find it’s easier for you to revoke the previous will and start fresh in writing your new estate plan. If there aren’t a lot of changes that you need to make, then you could make revisions to your will. Double-check that your revisions are clear so that there’s no confusion in court over what your intentions are.

Don’t Let Guilt Get to You

When you’re entering a new marriage with children of your own, it’s natural that you give more of your assets to them than your step-children. Don’t feel obligated to divide everything equally. Even when it comes to your own heirs, an equal distribution may not always be best. If one of your kids is already wealthy in their own career, then you might want to give a larger portion of your estate to your other child. Also, show the same understanding to your spouse if they have children that they want to provide with a larger portion of their inheritance. This doesn’t mean that they won’t love your children and treat them well.

Entering a new marriage that creates a blended family comes with several challenges. In addition to gaining the trust of their children or waiting for your children to trust your new spouse, you need to revisit your estate plan. Communicating your intentions for your estate to your blended family is important to prevent unmet expectations.

Contact The Knee Law Firm at 201-996-1200 for estate planning help in Hackensack, New Jersey.