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Estate Planning for Blended Families

Posted by Lanre J. Abiola | Jun 28, 2024

More American families are increasingly becoming blended families, where couples come together with children from previous relationships. Things often proceed smoothly until a parent dies and a lawyer, or the family's personal representative, begins reading the last will and testament. 

Generally, when a parent dies, the standard procedure for most married couples is to transfer everything to the surviving spouse and then to their children. However, this approach can be disastrous for blended families because a surviving spouse often has no legal obligation to leave assets to stepchildren. There are instances where stepchildren lose out on their inheritance while stepsiblings receive everything. Therefore, for blended families, the key to avoiding crises later in life is to create comprehensive estate planning.

Prenuptial Agreement

Before getting remarried, in addition to creating a last will and testament and a trust, a prenuptial agreement is often a crucial estate-planning document for blended families.

Additionally, under Wisconsin law, the default rule states that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse retains half of the community property but has no rights to the deceased's separate property. Marriage automatically provides surviving spouses with legal protections and property rights that should be addressed before the wedding.

Thus, for blended families, the best approach to avoid crises later in life is to have an estate planning attorney create the following: (1) a carefully drafted last will and testament, (2) a trust, and (3) a prenuptial agreement.

Create Separate Inheritances

Creating separate inheritances involves structuring your estate plan so that different individuals receive specific assets or amounts tailored to their needs and circumstances.

In some cases, blended couples establish a joint trust to ensure their children receive equal shares of the trust's remaining assets after the second parent's death. However, disputes have arisen when surviving spouses transferred all assets to new trusts, effectively disinheriting the deceased's biological children.

To prevent such situations, using a separate trust outside the main estate plan for your blended family ensures that your biological children receive their intended inheritance.

Carefully Choose Executors and/or Trustees 

Blended families should consider naming an outsider as executor and/or trustee instead of a relative, a biological child of one parent, or one child from each side of the family. For instance, family members named as executors and/or trustees may not want the job. Moreover, choosing a biological child of one parent or selecting one child from each side of the family can lead to resentment from siblings. Consequently, blended families should consider appointing an outsider as executor and/or trustee who is capable of doing a superb job, instead of a family member who may not be willing to take on the responsibility.

Accordingly, as more American families increasingly become blended families, taking the following steps can prevent crises later in life:

  1. Create comprehensive estate planning;
  2. Create separate inheritances;
  3. Before getting married, creating a prenuptial agreement is paramount; and
  4. To preserve your legacy, choose your executors and/or trustees carefully.

To learn more about estate planning in Wisconsin, contact Prestige Law Office, LLC. Give the firm the opportunity to assist you in creating your estate plan by scheduling a consultation and taking the first step toward securing your future.

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About the Author

Lanre J. Abiola

Mr. Lanre Abiola founded Prestige Law Office, LLC, with the objective of providing individuals, entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized businesses with high-quality, cost-effective legal services to achieve the best possible result for clients at a fair cost. Mr. Abiola believes in vigorous advocacy on clients' behalf.

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