All families are beautiful and unique in their own special way. For families who are comprised of children born from previous marriages, it is extremely important to ensure that each family member will be taken care of in the way that feels right for that family.
Just like natural families, blended families have many different dynamics that need to be addressed. Sometimes it can feel tricky for spouses in second marriages to express their feelings and concerns about the estate plan structure. Many families wish to avoid the discussion all together.
The first step is for the couple to establish a safe space to share their desires and concerns in a way that is productive. Having a trusted estate planning attorney present can help keep the conversation on track, and provide guidance to the couple who may not have previously understood all of their options.
The estate planning attorney will help the couple understand their options for caring for and providing for each member of the family unit. In some cases where spouses cannot agree, separate estate plans can still help each spouse avoid probate and ensure family members are taken care of by the natural parent. There is no right or wrong structure when it comes to your estate plan as wrong as it provides for the family in the way that is best for you.
The estate planning attorney will also help you understand what assets are considered “joint”, meaning they fully belong to both you and your spouse during your lifetimes, or “separate”, meaning they only belong to one spouse during that spouse’s lifetime. Typically with second marriages, some of the assets are considered separate because they came into the marriage with the spouse, and some are joint because they were earned or purchased after the marriage with joint funds. Understanding how your assets are owned is critical to establishing the right estate planning structure.
It’s also important to discuss guardianship of any minor children. Many step-parents provide all of the love, care, and support of natural parents, and losing their spouse would not only be devastating from that standpoint, but also because this can affect the step-parents rights to remain in their step-child’s lives. You can talk with your estate planning attorney about establishing legal wishes for your spouse to remain in your child’s life, even if you have passed away.
Lastly, it’s important to ensure that all of the retirement plans and life insurance policies are updated so that former spouses are not still inadvertently listed as a beneficiary.
To better understand your options for setting up an estate plan for your family, we invite you to schedule a planning session with a member of the Meier Law Firm team. Call 949-718-0420 or click here and fill out our simple form to learn more or get started.