Estate planning is crucial for blended families. Dying without a will in Texas means assets will be distributed to heirs according to intestate succession. That might be acceptable for people who have a spouse and child. However, blended families often involve second or third spouses, biological or adopted children, and stepchildren. Planning for their futures requires a well-prepared estate plan.
Below are tips to protect your blended family’s interests and ensure you can take care of them when you pass away.
Determine Your Primary Goal
Providing for a spouse is the primary objective for some couples. They have self-sufficient adult children who don’t need their parent’s assets. Making sure the children inherit a home, car, or bank account doesn’t seem necessary. Instead, leaving everything to a spouse makes sense.
However, blended families are different. Stepchildren and dependents who aren’t legally adopted have no rights to your estate when you die unless you name them as beneficiaries. You should indicate which assets they should receive upon your death. Including such directives in your estate plan prevents confusion over who gets what and allows your loved ones to afford education, medical treatment, and other necessary expenses after you pass.
Consider the Relationship Between Your Spouse and Children
Some blended families form while the kids are young. Strong bonds often develop between the stepchild and the stepparent. However, some blended families struggle to get along. Strained relationships can lead to arguments over your estate if you don’t prepare for the unexpected.
Before creating your estate plan, you should consider the relationships between your spouse, ex, and kids. To protect your stepchildren, clearly state how to distribute your property when you die. If your stepkids are minors, transfer some assets into a trust for your spouse to manage until the kids turn 18, or a specific event occurs.
For situations involving significant distrust between your biological children and their stepmother or stepfather, consider establishing a trust and ask someone other than your spouse to handle the assets and distributions. That way, you can ensure your kids receive what they’re entitled to without unnecessary delays, fraud, or mismanagement of assets.
Give Property to Your Children While Alive
You can give your kids property from your estate as gifts. Instead of waiting until your death, you could distribute funds from a brokerage account, change the title on your real estate, or give away personal items, such as collectibles, paintings, or jewelry. If the gifts have high value, there may be gift taxes involved if you’ve already reached your annual or lifetime gift tax exemption.
Discuss Your Plans with Your Family
In any family, especially one that is blended, communication is essential. You should sit down with your loved ones to discuss your estate plan. Explain why you made your decisions to prevent future arguments over your assets. You might minimize the risk of hurt feelings and confusion over how you set up your estate’s distribution.
When you inform your family of your estate plan details, everything is on the table. No one will feel kept in the dark or left out of plans when you communicate your wishes and reasoning for distributing property.
For example, one of your kids might feel blindsided if they discover your life insurance proceeds went to your stepchild. However, it can make sense to them if you explain you did it to provide for your stepchild’s disability or medical problems.
Get Help with Estate Planning for Your Blended Family
Hargrave Law, PC understands the challenges of planning for the future with a blended family. We will review your circumstances and advise you about the options that can benefit everyone.
Call 817-282-0679 or contact us online for a consultation with an experienced Bedford, TX, estate planning lawyer to learn more about how to create an estate plan if you have a blended family.