Couples often bring children into a marriage from a prior marriage or union and then have children together. This is often referred to as a blended family or better known as the “Brady Bunch” family. Blended families highlight the need for careful estate planning to make sure the needs of each spouse are met, as well as the needs of each parents’ children. Our firm works with more and more Brady Bunch families because with the divorce rate at 50% or higher there is a very strong need for these families to protect their children to avoid them getting disinherited after they die. 

If one spouse is significantly younger, this sometimes means that the older spouse’s children are close in age to the younger. There can also be sibling rivalry between children of a parent and step-children. These relationships can cause more than friction between the step-parent and step-children.

Most parents want to ensure that their assets will pass to their children and/or grandchildren, and maybe not their stepchildren.  However, without careful estate planning, there is no guarantee that their children will inherit their assets.  In fact, if the couple creates identical wills such that their assets pass to the survivor of them, there is a significant likelihood their children will be disinherited.

This is because all of their assets will pass to the surviving spouse to do with as he or she pleases. This can result in the surviving spouse excluding the stepchildren, who then receive nothing. Unfortunately, we saw this happen where dad passed with a simple Will plan (not recommended) and the new bride “Betty the barmaid” re-did the Will and named her children as the beneficiaries of everything. The dad’s son was disinherited receiving nothing. It was a sad case.  We advise our clients to create “Family Bloodline Trust” protections in their trust to avoid this from happening to your children. 

Poor planning can lead to a race for survival between spouses. A will can be changed at any time; therefore a surviving spouse could change his will after the death of the first spouse, leaving nothing for the first spouse’s children.

Another common occurrence is for each spouse to name the other as a beneficiary on accounts or pieces of real property. Doing so will not allow the bank account, piece of property or other type of asset to pass to anyone else, regardless of what their estate planning documents provide.

A trust, however, can allow a spouse/parent to “rule from the grave.” At the death of the first spouse half of the trust assets can be locked down. With this type of planning, each spouse can have the assurance that their share of the trust assets (or one half) will pass to their children, grandchildren or any other person they wish. The remaining assets are used for the surviving spouse, and will then pass as that spouse wishes.

We help families of all types plan so that their savings, home and other property passes the way they intend. This involves getting to know you and your family and having a complete understanding of each spouse’s wishes. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please give us a call. 

To learn more attend our next free educational estate planning and elder law workshop because you will learn a lot. Contact our friendly elder law care team at 781-871-7526 or contact pat@elderlawcare.com to register for the next workshop because we fill up quickly.

Patrick Kelleher is an Estate Planning & Elder Law attorney and founder of the elder law care learning center in Hanover Massachusetts. Patrick has been teaching free educational workshops for over 10 years at his learning center and surrounding communities. Learn more at www.elderlawcare.com or follow Patrick Kelleher on Facebook because you will learn a lot!  Offices in Hanover and Quincy.