According to the Pew Research Center, marriage in the U.S. is at its lowest rate since 1920. However, remarriage is trending up. In 1960, approximately 13% of all married people had been in a previous marriage; that jumped to 23% by 2013.
Remarriage creates blended families, and blended families produce important factors to consider regarding estate planning. Whether one or both parties in a marriage bring children into the new blended family, it is important to review an existing estate plan to make sure it accomplishes your objectives. If either spouse has no estate plan, it’s time to create one.
The complexities of remarriage
One important reason to review and update your estate plan after remarrying is to address the risk that a surviving spouse could disinherit your biological children. If all you have in place is a simple will, your assets will go to your spouse when you die and your spouse will control who inherits those assets when he or she dies.
A trust can provide more control than a will does. It is wise to consider every possibility when addressing inheritance issues in blended families. For example, a surviving spouse may remarry, which could further complicate the inheritance of children from a first marriage.
You may wish to provide some assets to biological children upon your death so they are not left waiting for a stepparent to die.
It is also important to identify ahead of time who will handle health care decisions (medical power of attorney) and how much control they will have compared to other family members.
Blended families are increasingly a fact of life. Addressing estate planning issues with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney once a blended family is formed can prevent stressful and expensive legal battles down the road.