The Brady Bunch. Yours, Mine and Ours. Blended families are great entertainment – but in real life, they can be complex. Especially when it comes to estate planning. When two people with children from a previous relationship decide to marry, everyone is happy for the new family. But what if something goes wrong? What if one parent unexpectedly dies? Who are the legal heirs? And if there are adult children involved or a child born from the new marriage – what happens then?
The answer depends on what steps the parents took to protect the future of their children, and whether they documented their wishes including the division of assets, the beneficiaries and guardians for any minor children.
1. A Trust Can Better Accommodate Complicated Inheritances Versus A Will
A simple will can suffice if it is a first marriage with children only from that marriage. But when you share children with different a biological parent, have adult children or have children from the new marriage, a basic will usually cannot provide for a complex family situation.
A trust can support your spouse after you are gone, leave assets to your adult biological children, or make provisions in the event your spouse remarries.
2. Review Your Beneficiaries
When you start a new job with insurance benefits or take out a life insurance policy, you designate your beneficiary: the person who will receive the money or assets in the event of your death. Your beneficiary could be your spouse, your children or your parents. But when your life circumstances change such as a remarriage, it’s important that you update your designated beneficiaries on all financial documents such as:
• Insurance policies
• Wills and trusts
• Bank accounts
• Pension and retirement plans
• Social security
• Stocks and bonds
3. Sign A Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements have become more common, and people entering second or even third marriages are likely to have a prenup to protect their premarital assets. Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts that are enforceable in Illinois, and you want to make sure your prenup and will are in alignment so you don’t cause extra stress on your loved ones if they contradict each other.
4. Share Your New Estate Plan With Your Family
Communicate the contents of your estate plan and final wishes to your family. Particularly in blended families, when a loved one dies, family conflict and stress are too often a result, primarily because the deceased did not let their family know their wishes in advance.
The legal and emotional issues for blended families are very complicated when one parent dies. By careful planning and communication, parents of blended families can minimize their family’s stress and prevent potential family arguments. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you in make choices to protect your loved ones.
The experienced estate planning attorneys at Estate and Probate Legal Group serve clients in Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake, and Will counties in Illinois can advise you on the best options to protect your assets and loved ones. To talk to an estate planning attorney contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.