Blended Families: The Estate Planning Questions You Need to Ask

Nearly 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and many divorcees choose to enter a second marriage, bringing their existing children into a whole new kind of familial structure. This is called a “blended family,” or a family that includes kids from a prior marriage.

As anyone with a blended family can attest, it’s not inherently different than a conventional nuclear family, and it can offer exactly the same kind of love and support for its members. However, there’s one area where a blended family can really make things more complicated: Estate planning. Even if it’s a difficult challenge, our skilled Omaha estate planning lawyers at Carlson & Burnett are ready to help you figure out how to take care of your blended family after you pass.

Below are some of the biggest estate planning questions you should be asking after your second marriage:

Q: How do I want my assets to be divided among my children?

If you have a blended family, you’ll need to be exceptionally clear about how you want everything to be divided among your children, biological and otherwise. It can be tempting to leave all your assets outright with your second spouse, but unfortunately, this is often a recipe for disaster. Any minor in-fights or squabbles among your children or spouse now may escalate into lengthy probate battles. By preparing a clear estate plan as early as possible, you’ll ensure that all your children get the financial protection and inheritance they deserve with minimal intra-family conflict.

Q: Should I get a trust?

Trusts aren’t just for the wealthy: They can give you additional peace of mind when you have a blended family. Regardless of your wealth, a joint trust may be the best bet for your blended family’s future. By placing half your shared spousal assets into a joint trust upon death, your children will be guaranteed a sizable share of the principal and your spouse will have access to additional income from interest. If you have high-value assets, you may want to establish a separate property trust, which will allow you to better manage the beneficiaries for those assets.

Q: What happens if one of my beneficiaries passes away prematurely?

It can be uncomfortable to think about, but you’ll need to ask whether the premature death of a beneficiary will affect how you distribute your assets. This is another reason why leaving everything to your second spouse may not be a good idea – if they happen to pass away prematurely, you may need to designate multiple different guardians for your blended children.

Q: Will any of my children contest the terms of my will?

If you suspect that there will be a lot of conflict over your last wishes, make sure to speak with an estate planning lawyer as quickly as possible. It’s never too early to begin preparing for the future, and by exploring all the possibilities now, you’ll save your blended family a lot of heartache and frustration later.

Ready to get started on estate planning for a blended family? Contact Carlson & Burnett today at 402-810-8611 for a free evaluation.

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