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Estate planning for blended families

Torrance Probate and Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning for blended families

Looking into the future is difficult for many who live in California and elsewhere who have put off estate planning or have not updated existing estate documents. But overseeing present and future financial responsibilities in family matters can get much more complicated after divorce and remarriage.

Consequential life events can have the effect of organizing priorities, however, especially when it comes to blended families. Providing for a spouse and children from a previous marriage need not cloud responsibilities to the new family. But the mixing of relatives who may not be related by blood but who are linked as beneficiaries to one estate can spell trouble without open, frank discussions that set boundaries and temper expectations.

Protecting your blended family and your assets

There are estimates suggesting that over half the families in the United States are remarried or re-coupled. Just because an ex-spouse remarries and starts a new family does not mean that they are not still a member of the first family. If they are providing for all, it is vitally important that they take care to update existing estate documents in the event that a child is left off or a former spouse mistakenly assumes that some assets belong to them.

First of all, a simple will is not enough. If someone dies, leaving everything to the existing spouse, this could mean that the biological children of the first family will receive nothing. Not only that, the surviving spouse could also leave assets to other blood relatives, children or a new spouse. It may be wise to consider leaving some estate assets to biological children in the will in this case.

Setting up a trust

A trust that benefits the spouse during their lifetime and passes to the children after death will make sure that this family unit will have unimpeded access to necessary funds for maintenance and support, without the entanglements of probate or questions of inheritance.

It is important to select a trustee who understands the complexities and potential friction that could arise concerning investments of trust funds and distributions after death. If the primary trustee is the surviving spouse, choosing a backup trustee may be wise in preventing the spouse from draining the trust and in the process disinheriting the children. Setting up a trust will also safeguard the trust assets if the spouse remarries.

Healthcare decisions

End-of-life decisions are not what people want to think about when they are healthy. But as you grow older and encounter health challenges, naming a surviving spouse or biological child to make important medical decisions on your behalf could set off a new set of altercations. A stepparent may cut off their spouse’s children’s access to them or information about their condition. If you name your adult child, depending on the relationship, this could mean that the spouse cannot visit you.

For residents of Torrence and surrounding areas, it is critical to have access to the best information for their unique circumstances when setting up effective estate planning.