Families in Delaware come in all different shapes and sizes. Blended families, where two adults with children from prior relationships, are increasingly common. And ultimately, people who have married before and who want to marry may recognize the importance of protecting themselves legally and financially in a way that those who have never married before may not.
Estate planning may not seem like one of the steps people should take when preparing to combine households with a romantic partner, but it can actually make a huge difference for those building a blended family. The right estate planning moves can clarify expectations and protect different members of the family from unfavorable situations. Those starting a blended family can start to adjust their estate plans for their unique household circumstances in the following ways.
Perform a basic update
Adding new beneficiaries, such as stepchildren, to a will can be as important as removing a former spouse from a position of authority within the estate. Remarried adults will also want to review and update the assets they include in their testamentary documents.
Wills can name a guardian for the children and the family and can specify beneficiaries who should receive assets from the estate when someone dies. However, wills are frequently subject to litigation initiated by those who are unhappy with the terms of someone’s estate plan. Trusts are harder to challenge, and they also allow people to put more restrictions on the use of inherited assets. For example, using a trust to manage the family home would allow a spouse to continue living there until they die or remarry, at which point the property might pass to the children of the testator.
Talk openly about inheritance expectations
If a blended family includes teenage or adult children, there can be questions about how a stepparent will adjust their testamentary documents to include their stepchildren. Those that talk openly with the entire family about their intentions for their property when they die can help prevent people from developing a sense of entitlement and can reduce the likelihood that there will be conflict surrounding their estate after they die.
Prepare for the unexpected
Although testamentary documents are among the most important inclusions in an estate plan for an adult and a blended family, they are far from the only documents someone needs. Including powers of attorney and advance directives for medical care can also be very useful for protecting oneself against the worst-case scenario and guiding loved ones during difficult times.
A strong estate plan can help preserve the bonds in a blended family during a medical emergency or after a death when the stress might otherwise damage those relationships and the interests of everyone involved.