Estate Planning for blended families can be difficult.
Second marriages present special challenges in estate planning. Spouses have children from prior marriages. They have children together. They have assets brought into the relationship, and assets obtained together. These families should have two goals. First, to provide for the other spouse, and second, to ensure that their assets ultimately go to all of their children. Each client in this situation is unique, but proper planning can avoid litigated situations in probate between step-children, step-parents, and half siblings.
Estate Planning For Blended Families:
Pre-Marital Agreements –
This is the easiest way to address inheritance issues for people getting married who have prior children and assets. A good prenup will address each spouse’s rights and responsibilities during marriage, their rights in the event of a divorce, and the rights of the surviving spouse for inheritance purposes.
Florida law protects the marital home as homestead property. The surviving spouse will have the right to live in this property until their passing or sell it and receive half the proceeds if there are children from a prior marriage. Titling your homestead as husband and wife can avoid any dispute over the property and ensure the surviving spouse’s shelter is provided for. This is an asset the surviving spouse almost always receives, so there is no point in leaving it in doubt and subject to litigation.
Keep separate accounts –
In some cases, it may be wise for the parties to keep any accounts from before the marriage in their own names, with their children from the prior marriage as the beneficiaries of these accounts. This will ensure there are some assets for the children from the first marriage, and keep these proceeds outside of probate court.
Estate planning for Blended Families –
Preparation of joint wills or joint trusts is necessary in some cases. Having your wishes written down is a way to reduce any potential questions as to its validity later and is always beneficial for the heirs. When taking this step, a competent estate planning attorney should guide the couple in making sure they are using the proper language, and setting up the correct plan to provide for all the children, whether from the first or second marriage, and also taking care of the surviving spouse.