Estate Planning for Blended Families
Step-family drama comes in many varieties. When you were young, you may have thought that the most challenging family relationship you would ever navigate would be your relationship with your spouse’s parents, but things get even more complicated when you marry someone who already has children from a previous marriage. On an emotional level, things tend to work themselves out over time, especially because love can’t be divided into percentages. Everyone eventually accepts that you are your wife’s husband 100 percent and that you are 100 percent the father of each of your children; each family member gets to have his or her own relationship with you, and as adults, everyone understands that it is pointless to compare them. If you have children with someone other than your current spouse, though, your failure to account for each family member in a detailed estate plan can cause all sorts of emotional and financial damage. Start by contacting a Central Florida estate planning lawyer.
Write a Will Today, Not Tomorrow
Everyone who has children should have a will, but it is especially important to write a will if you have remarried. The rules governing intestate succession assume that the family is intact and that the children will eventually inherit the money from your surviving spouse. If your children are grown, then writing a will is simply a matter of deciding who inherits what. If they are minors, then your will should also make arrangements for their financial support until they reach adulthood. If your divorce judgment specified financial obligations that you still have to your former spouse, also account for those in your will. Otherwise, your ex-spouse can use the divorce judgment to claim money from your estate during probate.
Prenuptial Agreements Are Your Friend
Prenuptial agreements do not indicate a lack of trust in your spouse; they simply specify what can and cannot become marital property. A prenuptial agreement is a way of thinking about how you will and will not combine finances with your spouse, without using the word “death.” If you write both a prenuptial agreement and a will, make sure that the two documents do not conflict with each other, or else things can get complicated in probate. When you later update your will or establish trusts, you do not have to argue about who gets what, because you have already decided what is marital property, and what is non-marital.
Be Honest, and Accept That You Can’t Please Everyone
It is possible that your spouse and your children from a previous marriage will never truly love and accept each other, and no estate plan can fix that. Ultimately, it is your decision how to provide for each family member in your estate plan. Hiding assets from your spouse will always backfire. The worst thing you can do is not having an estate plan at all. If you leave it to your spouse and your children to battle it out in court over your property, everyone will feel that you didn’t care enough about them to make a firm decision.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
An experienced Tampa estate planning lawyer can help you avoid step-family drama by developing a carefully thought-out estate plan. Contact David Toback for help with your case.