It is important that they take steps to establish a will or trust. Some special considerations may need to go into coordinating an estate plan for a blended family.
Planning ahead enables family members to avoid several potential negative ramifications of probate. It will also prevent the unintentional exclusion of individual loved ones. Here are some possible goals that a parent in a blended family may wish to consider.
Ensure biological children receive assets
If the estate of a person who has remarried passes to his or her new spouse, children from a previous marriage may not receive any of the proceeds. One way to avoid this outcome is creating a trust that grants a spouse a fixed amount during his or her lifetime with the remainder passing to children thereafter.
Include provisions for stepchildren
Probate awards assets to only biological children and not stepchildren. Stepparents can make clear provisions in a will about what they wish to leave to stepchildren individually or collectively. Also, they may establish a trust naming stepchildren as beneficiaries.
Specify who will make healthcare decisions
Everyone should give some thought to who they would like to make medical decisions on their behalf if necessary. Biological children and a new spouse may disagree about healthcare, so designating a proxy may help spare family members from uncertainty and contention.
Ultimately, parents in blended families must take care to avoid inadvertently excluding family members who they want to provide for. They need to strategically tailor their estate plans to match their current family dynamic.