It is becoming more and more common for individuals to remarry during their lifetime, either because of the death of their spouse or a divorce. However, even though an increasing number of blended families exist in the United States, traditional estate planning tactics and documents often assume that a person only has one spouse and only has children with that spouse.
When you remarry, you have to take a close look at your finances as well as your wants, needs, and wishes for the future of your family members. We suggest you begin by asking the following five simple questions:
What are my assets and debts?
Before you decide who should get what and how they will get it, it is vital that you understand what is yours to give. A shocking number of divorcees don’t have a clear idea of what they received in their divorce, especially when it comes to investments and retirement plans. In addition, many remarried couples never sit down and clearly communicate how they will be combining their finances. It is extremely important to physically list your assets and debts at the beginning of your planning process.
What will my current spouse need after my death?
Do you know what your spouse received during property division if he or she is also divorced? Do you know how much support he or she wants, needs, or expects at the time of your death? Again, you should have a candid conversation about your estate before you update or draft estate planning documents.
What should my biological children receive?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including whether your children are still minors, whether they still share your home, and whether you have an ex-spouse who also contributes support. You also have to consider your children’s feelings regarding you, your new spouse, and your estate plan. The emotional complexities of estate planning with a blended family are just as important to consider as the legal complexities.
What should my stepchildren receive?
Again, the answer to this question may change depending on your relationship to your stepchildren: did you help raise them, or are they adults? Do they need your support? Will giving them assets after your death mean taking them away from your biological children? Will leaving them out cause family strife?
Which documents and plans do I need to update?
After understanding what you have and who you would like to give it to, it is time to protect what you have and make your wishes known legally and on paper. If you already have estate planning in place, such as wills, trusts, and life insurance policies, make sure you update them thoroughly and with the help of an attorney. If you don’t have any estate planning in place, speak with an attorney as soon as possible about organizing your future.
San Francisco Estate Planning Assistance
If you are part of a blended family, or about to blend families, estate planning is even more important than before. To learn more about estate planning for blended families in California, call The Law Office of Janet Brewer today to schedule an appointment: (650) 325-8276.