Do you and your spouse have one or more children from prior
relationships and/or marriages?
If so, then your estate planning is much more complicated that you probably think.
And, it's much more important to grapple with the issues raised by blended families
because the failure to plan, and to execute effective documents can be truly
destructive to your heirs. In fact, the failure to plan properly can leave
your heirs without healthy relationships and without an inheritance.
Did you know that the children of blended families are much more likely to
start litigating over your trust or estate planning?
And, with litigation, and the costs of estate and trust litigation both rising,
it is more important than ever to prevent families from squandering the inheritance that
So what are some of the issues faced by families with children from prior marriages
The issues are numerous and can be confusing. But in this article we offer
thoughts and solutions for a few of the most common issues.
Finding The Right Lawyer and Avoiding The Confusion
First, many blended families find the estate planning process to be too daunting and
complicated. Since they don't understand the issues and don't want to do wills
where disagreements over their children might surface, they simply avoid the issues.
So, when starting a plan it's essential that you identify a lawyer that works regularly
with blended families, who understands the issues that you face and can describe the
alternatives to you clearly and effectively. You need to understand the options before you
can intelligently solve the problems.
Understanding The "Conflicts"
It's also important to note, that when a couple with children from multiple
marriages seeks the advice of an estate planning lawyer, that they also consider
the potential conflicts of interest. It is acceptable for one lawyer to represent
a husband and wife, or an unmarried couple with children but, there are ethical
issues and limitations that must be addressed.
Make sure to discuss this with any lawyer at your first meeting and make sure that
they explain the limitations of their representation and the ethical issues
While you may both want to work with one lawyer it's essential that you
discuss the pros and cons of that representation.
Clarify What Your Children Really Need
Next, because blended families might have children of radically different ages, it is
also essential to consider how this might effect your estate plan.
If younger children of a more recent marriage haven't yet attended college, but
children from a prior marriage have (and where you paid the tuition) how can you
account for this in your estate planning?
Be sure to discuss sprinkle trusts (which allow a trustee to give younger heirs
the money for college and then can divide the trust equally among all children at an
Sprinkle Trusts, Life Insurance and More Options
Another problem sometimes occurs when all of the assets are put in trust for the
younger children and older children might never receive an inheritance.
This increases the odds of a challenge and alternatives and the use of life insurance
to provide some transfer to older chiilren at their parent's death can be considered.
Obviously, there are many more issues faced by blended families. To have your particular
questions considered, email attorney David Frees at [email protected].
Pre Order Your Copy Of This Vital Resource For Blended Families
To order an advance copy of David's upcoming resource for blended families:
Blended Families: Saving The Family, Preserving The Assets - Unique Estate and
Trust Planning Issues When You Have Children of Multiple Marriages
Just call Lisa Snyder at 610-933-8069 to request a copy when it's published.
More issues to consider and discuss with your estate planning attorney?
Should I have a non contest clause?
Should I require my heirs to mediate problems?
Who should be executor, trustee, and power of attorney to prevent disputes?
Who gets to appoint the guardian for my younger children?
How much should we tell the kids about our planning?
Should we consider a family meeting?
Thank you for being a reader and subscriber. Look for more on blended
families to come.
David M. Frees, III JD