Divorce and subsequent remarriage have become incredibly commonplace. Blended families are no longer unusual but part of mainstream American culture. However, they still have special legal considerations that you shouldn’t ignore.
You probably reviewed your estate plan and changed some of your documents when you initially divorced, and you will likely need to revisit it again now that you have remarried someone with children or without a direct tie to your children.
In addition to addressing the unique concerns that your family has, you will also need to plan ahead to minimize conflict about your legacy in the future.
Estate administration for blended families can lead to fighting
There are many interpersonal issues that can complicate someone’s estate when they remarry. For example, if their estate plan uses generalized language and just talks about sharing assets among their children, there could be a dispute about whether those instructions include the stepchildren.
Alternately, your children might secretly resent their stepparents, especially if they feel like the stepparent played a role in the end of their parents’ marriage or if there is a large age gap between their parent and the new spouse that they think indicates a financial incentive behind the marriage.
Unless those who remarry think carefully about their family situation, either their children or their spouse might challenge their wishes, drag the estate through probate and diminish their legacy.
Careful document creation and trusts are helpful for complex situations
The more complicated your family situation is and the more valuable your personal property, the greater the risk of conflict during estate administration.
You may want to frequently update your estate plan to ensure it protects your wishes. Telling your family about your wishes so they know what to expect is also important, as it prevents the development of a sense of entitlement.
You may also decide to integrate a trust into your plan so that it will be harder for people to challenge your wishes. A trust can also help because it empowers a trustee to make difficult decisions about your property when family members have a dispute about what to do with certain assets.
Deciding what legacy you want to leave behind and how to best protect your children, your wishes and your new spouse will help you create an estate plan that focuses on your values and wishes.