Estate planning — the steps you take to provide for your loved ones in the event of your disability or death — can be even more complicated when a blended family is involved. This is generally defined as a marriage or civil union in which one or both partners have children from a previous relationship. If you’re part of such a family unit, there are special considerations you must address to protect your loved ones’ interests as well as your own.
In the first place, you need a will that specifically describes who is entitled to share in your estate and in what amounts. If your current spouse isn’t the biological parent of your children and/or they have other children from another relationship, a simple will leaving everything to your spouse may not accomplish what you intend. Even if you’ve asked your spouse to share all of your marital assets with your children, there’s nothing requiring him or her to do so. If you want your children to receive assets after you pass away, make sure your will states this very clearly.
Another way to protect your children’s interests is to set up a trust. This allows you to provide for your spouse during his or her lifetime, with anything remaining in the trust then passing to your children. The trust can place limits on your spouse’s use and spending of the assets, so that your children’s intended shares are not wasted before they take possession. You can appoint a close friend or family member to serve as your trustee, who is responsible for ensuring that the trust is not misused and that the remaining assets are passed on to your children as directed. A trust is also helpful in the event that your spouse remarries, since it prevents his or her new spouse from taking a share of the trust assets as part of an inheritance.
It’s also important to decide who will make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you’re unable to make them for yourself. This can be done by giving a healthcare power of attorney to someone you trust and who is of a sufficient level of maturity. You can also create a durable power of attorney for a trusted person to handle your financial affairs in such circumstances. “Durable” means the power will remain in force even if you become incapacitated. In a blended family, it may not be wise to give a durable power to your spouse, since it allows them to make major decisions about your financial assets even before your death. An experienced estate attorney can draw up these documents according to your specific wishes.
Estate planning for blended families can be a complicated affair but it need not be stressful. At Goldberg Sager & Associates in Brooklyn, we are adept at helping New York clients with special family situations achieve their objectives in making provisions for their loved ones. Contact us today by calling 718-514-9516 or by contacting us online.