Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, April 29, 2019

6 Estate Planning Tips For Blended Families

MarriageNo matter how every parent that remarries hopes things will go well, not every blended family has the same harmony as the Brady Bunch. A step-parent may not have the same affection for their step kids as much as they have for their biological children, especially if there are no adoptions. Years after one spouse dies, the children of that spouse may worry about their stepmother or stepfather including them in their estate plan if the majority of their parent's estate went to their spouse.

Here are 6 tips for blended families when it comes to estate planning.

  • A simple will probably will not cut it.
    • Our society is seeing less nuclear families with simple family trees, so the simple wills of yesterday will not be sufficient in these circumstances.
  • Consider a trust that leaves assets to your spouse for her lifetime, with the balance passing to your children on her death.
    • This way, your spouse can be taken care the rest of his or her days, but your assets will ultimately pass to your children.
  • Choose a knowledgeable and sophisticated trustee.
    • Just in case there is tensions between your spouse and your children years down the road after your death, it is important to have an experienced trustee to invest properly and act as referee.
  • Plan for the possibility that your surviving spouse will remarry.
    • It could happen. A trust can ensure that the assets are protected.
  • Consider leaving some assets to your biological children on your death.
    • This can ease tensions and make it so that your children are not waiting around and hoping for their stepparent to pass away.
  • Decide who will make health care decisions.
    • Most states only allow you to name one person to make health care decisions. This can cause issues between a stepparent and an adult child as it is not uncommon for one to cut off the other from seeing an incapacitated parent. This should be an in-depth conversation with your family.

See Christine Fletcher, 6 Estate Planning Tips For Blended Families, Forbes, April 26, 2019.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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