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Estate planning considerations for blended families

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Estate Planning

Blended families face unique estate planning challenges and considerations. These situations involve those in second or subsequent marriages and typically include children from prior relationships, as well as stepchildren.

Estate planning for blended families is especially important. Proper planning can help avoid disputes after a loved one passes away, account for property and assets that are both shared and owned separately, and protect the wishes of parents for both their children and stepchildren. Here are some key considerations for North Carolina parents to consider with regard to estate planning.

Skipping estate planning prevents personalized plans

One primary concern for parents is the distribution of assets. Without a will, North Carolina’s intestate succession laws dictate how assets are passed down. This might not meet the person’s wishes. For example, a surviving spouse and children may receive a portion of the estate, but stepchildren might not receive anything unless specifically named in a will.

Trusts can provide a structured distribution of assets

Trusts can be particularly beneficial tools for blended families. A revocable living trust allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets during their lifetime and specify precisely how these assets should be distributed upon their death.

Trusts can also stipulate conditions or milestones for inheritance, such as reaching a certain age or completing education. This can be particularly useful for providing for younger children over time.

Don’t forget to update your plan

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is forgetting to update your estate plan following a new marriage, birth or adoption of a child or another significant life change. It is critical to revisit your estate plan following such big changes to ensure your new spouse, children and possibly stepchildren have rights to your property and assets. Other critical plans and legal documents to update include your life insurance policy, retirement accounts and any other plan or policy where you may need to update your beneficiaries.

Because estate planning for blended families can become rather complex, it’s best to work with an attorney who understands how to achieve unique wishes in a legally enforceable manner.