Marriages after children have grown are often highly intense and romantic, and they can bring an enormous amount of joy to the lives of both spouses. However, these later-in-life marriages can also create some challenges when it comes to estate planning.
In many cases, the spouses often want to take care of each other, but they also want to leave assets and wealth to their own children. How can they balance these sometimes-competing interests and make sure their wishes are honored after they die? In many cases, the best answer is a living trust.
Families that come together as a result of second marriages or marriages where both parties have their own children are often called “blended families.” In a blended family, each spouse usually brings their own assets to the marriage, and the spouses may have different ideas about who should inherit what after their passing. Too often, however, spouses don’t discuss these issues until the last possible minute, if they even talk about them at all.
Many people in this situation also mistakenly believe that having a will in place will settle any thorny issues that might come up. Unfortunately, a typical will arrangement where spouses leave everything to each other runs the risk of one set of children being disinherited. To understand why, consider the following example.
Let’s say Herbert marries Wanda. The two met later in life, and both Herbert and Wanda have adult children from prior relationships. If Herbert dies, Wanda will inherit his entire estate. After his passing, Wanda decides she won’t leave her estate (which now includes Herbert’s estate as well and is solely in her possession) to both of their children; instead, she wants to give everything to her children alone.
In this case, Herbert’s children would have no legal recourse and will inherit nothing, which is not what Herbert wanted. However, the fact remains that spouses sometimes disagree over who should inherit what — perhaps Wanda disagrees with how Herbert’s children spend and manage their money and, since she doesn’t have the same type of relationship with them, decides she doesn’t want to give them anything despite her attachment to Herbert himself.
Regardless of the reasons behind the decision-making, you can see how these situations can become fraught and sometimes end up with one spouse’s wishes not being honored — even despite the best intentions of everyone involved.
Although wills have value in many estate planning scenarios, the fact is that a simple will cannot solve the problem outlined above or resolve many similar situations that can arise in a blended family. Instead, blended families often need a living trust to make sure these types of scenarios don’t come to pass. (If you’re not familiar with the difference between a will and a trust, visit our page on estate planning, wills, and trusts to learn more.)
For a blended family, trusts can provide clarity in terms of who gets which assets as an inheritance, and, most importantly, they can set out and enforce the terms of a person’s estate plan not only at the time of their passing, but for many years before and afterward — sometimes over generations. A trust can prevent potential unhappy scenarios like a wife being evicted from her house by her husband’s children within days of his death or a wife throwing out everything that belonged to a husband’s children and keeping his entire estate for her family.
In general, effective estate planning for blended families requires two things: communication and legal documents prepared with the utmost care. While you can accomplish the former on your own, the latter can be complicated, which is why we’re here to help.
Thinking about and discussing your estate plan can be challenging, but like so many other things in life, the key to managing that challenge is to get started — and to do so with plenty of time to spare. If you’re ready to start planning your estate and securing your loved ones’ financial well-being for the future, the Devolder Law Firm is here to help. When you work with our dedicated and experienced legal team, we’ll take the time to understand your situation and your unique needs so we can help you craft an estate plan that addresses your wishes and concerns for many years to come.
If you’re ready to take the next step, call us at 813-724-3880 or fill out our convenient online contact form and we’ll get in touch with you right away to schedule an initial consultation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.