If you’re like most people with a blended family, you would like your family to be as happy as the Brady Bunch. Carol became “Mom” to Mike’s sons and Mike became “Dad” to Carol’s daughters. As viewers, it was easy to forget that the Bradys were a blended family.
In our own lives, it’s not so easy to forget. And, we shouldn’t. Blended families call for caring communication, and careful estate planning. Without these things, relationships can be strained, mistrust fostered, and children unintentionally disinherited.
1. Let your children know
Be sure to let your children know that you have entered into the estate planning process. Let them know that your assets are being protected and will be available to them when you die. Allow them to ask questions and express concerns.
Even if they don’t admit it, they will breathe a huge collective sigh of relief and be more welcoming of your second spouse.
2. Do not name children as remainder interest beneficiaries
While many step-parent and step-child relationships are held together during the biological parent’s lifetime, at death, conflict often arises, tearing otherwise caring families apart.
Do not give assets to your spouse for his or her lifetime if your spouse is not the parent of all of your children. It’s not good for anyone. Provide other assets for your children.
This avoids serious conflict over how assets are to be invested and distributed during the remaining years of your spouse’s life. And, your children won’t be waiting for your spouse to die.
3. Buy life insurance
If you don’t have enough assets to provide income replacement for a second spouse and an inheritance for your children, purchase life insurance to create an estate.
4. A word about family pictures, family heirlooms, and sentimental personal property
Be sure that your spouse, your children, and your estate planning attorney know that you want all relevant family pictures, family heirlooms, and sentimental personal property to go to your children immediately upon your death. This can be drafted into your trust.
If you have questions about estate planning for blended families to foster good relationships, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. Take action to both tell and show your children and spouse that you love them and will take care of them.