Life doesn’t have a timeline for relationships, as time goes on marriages can end and new ones can begin. Not to mention, any of those relationships could have children involved — creating what is known as a blended family. Blended families could have a few different structures: Married couples where one or both people have children from a prior marriage. Families with children who have children of their own from prior marriages. And, families where the children’s spouses have children from a prior marriage. Blended families also can include life partners or significant others depending on how individuals view their relationships. This certainly can make life interesting and sometimes complicated, especially when it comes to estate planning. Here are some helpful tips on how to use estate planning to protect your blended family.

Update Estate Planning Documents

Whenever a big life change happens, such as a marriage or divorce, buying property, or an addition to or death in your family, you should always look over your estate plan and make any necessary edits. You should start by reviewing your will or trust, but also make sure documents such as your power of attorney and medical directive are accurate as well. When reviewing, keep your blended family situation in mind and seek legal guidance to address any concerns or necessary updates.

Set Up a Trust 

A trust is always an option for people who wish to care for both their partners and their child(ren) after the event of their death. You can create a trust where all of your assets or a specific monetary amount will be left to your significant other to enjoy during their lifetime.  Upon their passing, the balance of the trust may pass onto your child(ren), step-children, or other individuals who you wish to name.  This is a simple example of one option for leaving your assets to your loved ones; however, there are many options to consider for blended family situations. Contact our team of experienced estate planning lawyers to discuss whether a   trust would be best for you.

Don’t Forget About Property and Possessions

Most people think about the monetary assets that will be left after their passing. However, a common mistake is forgetting to include what will happen to your property or personal possessions. While these assets may be lower in monetary value, they could hold a special meaning for members of your family. Be clear on which items are being left to which family members in your estate planning documents. If you share personal belongings with your partner but would like certain items to go to your child(ren) after your passing, include these requests in your estate planning documents.

Talk it Out

Being a part of a blended family can make the event of a family member passing even more difficult. Children from prior marriages and spouses of the deceased often battle for what they think is owed to them, whether it’s belongings or money. It is important to speak with your family about your decisions while you are in the estate planning process. Let them know your wishes in person and answer any questions they might have to limit stress and potential conflict between the family members after your death.

Seek a Qualified Estate Planning Lawyer

For blended families, there is not a one-solution-fits-all scenario when it comes to estate planning. That’s why it is important to start the estate planning process early and make adjustments whenever there are big changes in your life. Many people are not sure how to begin the process, so it’s crucial to seek guidance from an estate planning lawyer so you can ask questions and receive valuable advice. Meier Law has qualified estate planning lawyers in Latham, NY to help you get started with the estate planning process, to make sure you can protect your blended family upon your passing. Contact us today to begin your estate planning process.