These days, having a “blended” family isn’t unusual, especially as more older adults are choosing to remarry. While all blended families are unique, they generally share some of the same concerns – including how to make estate planning and inheritances fair for everyone.
If your marriage involves “yours, mine and ours,” here are some tips that can help keep your own estate planning process smoother than it otherwise might be.
Update your estate planning documents and beneficiary designations
One huge mistake is forgetting to update your estate plans at all. This includes your will, any trusts you may have established, beneficiary designations on insurance policies and bank accounts and your powers of attorney. Ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes, considering your new spouse, your children from previous relationships and any stepchildren.
Practice open and honest communication about your plans
Effective estate planning in blended families starts with open and honest communication among all family members. Discuss your intentions, concerns and expectations regarding inheritances, family heirlooms and property. This proactive approach can help prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts in the future. Remember: Treating each heir fairly is more important than treating them equally.
Consider using a trust to minimize potential disputes
Consider establishing a revocable living trust that allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed and managed, both during your lifetime and after your passing. Trusts can be much more effective than a will when it comes to preventing disputes (or withstanding them).
Designate a competent executor and trustee
Selecting a good executor for your estate and a capable trustee for any trusts is crucial in blended families. Choose individuals who are impartial, intelligent and capable of handling complex family dynamics. These people will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and ensuring a fair distribution of assets, so consider their ability to navigate potential conflicts with tact.
Ultimately, estate planning in a blended family generally requires a lot of conversation and a lot of compromises. You may want to seek legal guidance early in this process so that you can better explore the estate planning possibilities that are available.