When you merged your families together, you were probably thinking only of the bright future that your new family unit would share together. Estate planning is something that may not have occurred to you or your spouse at the time you married, but it is definitely something you need to deal with as soon as possible. With the "yours, mine, and ours" nature of many blended families today, there is a strong need to figure out the best way to provide for everybody in a fair way. There are several ways you can do this through estate planning.
Caring For Your Spouse
Naturally, you will want to be sure that your spouse is taken care of after you pass away, but leaving your entire estate to your spouse means that your children may not get what you would like for them to have. Your estate planning lawyer can advise you about the best way to handle this quandary.
Some attorneys may recommend creating a marital trust, which will provide financial support for your spouse after you die. This trust will still allow for property and money to be held aside for your children until they are adults.
Dividing All Assets
You need to discuss all assets with your spouse in detail. Both of you may have brought property and assets to the marriage, and you will also accumulate joint property while married. Make a list of all these assets, including:
- Bank accounts
- Pension or retirement accounts
- All items of significant monetary or sentimental value
Deciding how to divide these assets among your children can be challenging, but it is a necessary step to avoid problems after one or both of you has passed. It is important to be extremely clear as you assign property.
When you have multiple heirs, as in a blended family, you can't expect your wishes to be followed unless you are very specific about what those wishes are. Bottom line: If there are assets or property of significant value, they need to be specifically addressed during the estate planning.
Checking Your Beneficiaries
One thing that people may tend to forget when they're doing estate planning is their insurance policies. These policies may not have the beneficiaries that you'd prefer because they were created well before your remarriage.
Make a list of all insurance policies that have designated beneficiaries, and then make sure that the people who will inherit the policy are actually those who you want to inherit. With your new blended family, this may involve designating multiple beneficiaries, something that your estate planning lawyer can help you set up.
Blended families can definitely multiply the joy and love in your life. There is no reason to allow anything to divide your loved ones after you pass away. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will allow your family to get exactly what you want them to have - and they will have the comfort of knowing that you worked hard to plan for their futures!
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