Estate Planning for the Modern Family

There are many reasons to make sure you have an estate plan after remarriage. In this brief space I will address a few.

We are all familiar with the sitcom Modern Family, and many of us live in a “modern” family.  That is because 3 out of 4 people who divorce eventually remarry.

According to data published by the Pew Research Center, 6 in 10 women in remarriages are living in what the Census Bureau calls a “blended family.”

However, we have come a long way since the Brady Bunch. Today’s modern family may have step children and step parents, but they may also include half siblings and adopted siblings.

Blended families are faced with unique challenges such as co-parenting with another family and finding balance for children who live between two homes. Planning your estate with a blended family also presents unique challenges, like how to provide for your spouse without accidentally disinheriting your biological children.

Let’s assume: 1) your spouse has children, 2) your spouse does not adopt your children, and 3) your assets consist of retirements funds and a jointly owned home with your spouse. What if according to the laws of your state, in the absence of an estate plan everything passes to your spouse? And what if your spouse dies without an estate plan and all his assets — including the ones he inherits from you — go to his children? Your children get nothing. Clearly, this is not a desirable outcome.

A better alternative is to establish a plan that provides for your children, your spouse and perhaps your spouse’s children.

For example, you may want a trust that allows your spouse to use the assets in your estate for the remainder of his life, then pass those assets to your children. Or you may wish to leave a portion of your assets to your children outright and leave the remainder to your spouse. In this scenario, you might consider who will manage your children’s assets. You might also consider a trust that protects your spouses’ children if your spouse remarries, gets sued or dies.

Other factors to consider include the impact of divorce agreements and marital property laws. If there are minor children, planning for their custody adds further complexity. Suppose you don’t want your ex-spouse to take custody of your children? What are your options?

There are many things to think about when planning an estate after remarriage. Be clear about your intentions and reach out to experts to address your concerns. Contact Global Law PLLC or call 703-712-8000 for more information about to create an estate plan for your blended family.

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