Often individuals in a second marriage with a blended family have different goal and concerns when it comes to estate planning than individuals in a first marriage. In a first marriage, most individuals will want their entire estate to go to the surviving spouse, and upon the death of their surviving spouse, equally to their children.
However, in a second marriage with a blended family, it is very common to want children from a previous relationship to benefit primarily from the estate rather than the new spouse. At the same time, there still might be a concern about providing financially for the surviving spouse during the surviving spouse’s lifetime. While a couple in a second marriage and blended family situation could create Wills that provide that all of the children of the couple will inherit equally, the surviving spouse is still free to change their Will, so that only the surviving spouse’s children inherit the estate.
This concern can be addressed in a couple of different ways. One option is to set up a Trust to hold all family assets. Upon the death of the first spouse, the Trust becomes irrevocable, but the surviving spouse may use the assets in the Trust for support, subject to limits such as only allowing the surviving spouse to use income of the Trust for support or placing limits on the surviving spouse’s ability to use the principal of the Trust for living expenses. This allows the surviving spouse to have financial support while alive, but prevents the surviving spouse from changing the beneficiaries of the Trust and disinheriting stepchildren.
Another option to address this concern is to provide for a certain amount of money to be left to the children at the death of the first spouse. With this option, the children from the previous relationship do not have to wait until the surviving spouse dies to get their portion of the inheritance. This can be accomplished by obtaining a life insurance policy that is payable to the children from a previous relationship. Either of these options will allow for the financial support of the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime, but, at the same time, will prevent the surviving spouse from disinheriting stepchildren.
Because estate planning is so fact specific, no matter which option you prefer, it is very important to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about your specific situation. To speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, contact Tentinger