Blended families are increasingly common in today’s world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 1 in 6 children share a household with a stepparent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.
Accepting new members into your family, whether through remarriage or adoption, can be joyous undertaking. When it comes to estate planning, having a blended family involves special attention and preparation.
Estate planning is especially crucial for those in blended families, because failing to plan ahead may put their loved ones at a disadvantage.
For those who die intestate (without a will), stepchildren may not automatically be entitled to an inheritance, even if the deceased played a significant role in their life. When a person dies intestate, his/her assets are distributed by a probate court according to State intestacy law.
Foster children and adopted children may also pose an issue when one dies intestate. If the formal adoption process has not been satisfied, a child may not be recognized as a beneficiary under intestate law.
To avoid intestacy, be sure to leave behind a valid will. If you would like to leave assets to someone who is not a spouse or close biological relative, they must be specifically named in your estate plan.
Because each family is unique, you must tailor your estate plan to suit your individual needs as well as needs of your family. Trusts are one option for building your estate plan.
A revocable living trust can be updated and modified as long as the owner of the estate, the grantor, is still alive, while an irrevocable trust is final. A trust allows you to delegate when and how assets are distributed to trustees. Trusts are a popular option when planning for childcare in the event of a guardian’s death or incapacitation.
Update Your Estate Plan
The benefit of starting your estate plan early is that it can be reviewed and updated as life changes arise. Milestones like marriage, childbirth, and home ownership are all reasons to look back on your estate plan and make any necessary adjustments.
Communication is Key
You may find that being straightforward about your estate plan will ease the tension and discomfort associated with end-of-life planning. Speak with your family about your medical, financial, and personal preferences. Make sure trustees and beneficiaries are aware of any future responsibilities they may have. For blended families, the need to approach estate planning with special consideration is heightened.