Gone are the days when a “typical” American family consisted of a husband, wife and their offspring. In today’s world, families can take on an amazing array of shapes and configurations. This is especially true for those in New Jersey who marry more than once, and share a family connection with a mix of children, stepchildren and past and present spouses. In regard to estate planning, the modern American family offers a unique set of challenges.
For those with young children, the importance of structuring a thorough estate plan is vitally important. Children will require financial support as they continue to grow, and leaving behind a poorly conceived or non-existent estate plan can leave kids without that much-needed assistance. In addition, when there is little or no guidance available, current and former spouses often have to fight for a share of the estate.
In regard to the family home, tensions can quickly mount when a “new” wife is given the right to live within a home that one’s adult children grew up in and consider to be theirs. However, if the intention is to allow the children to inherit the home, this places the wife at risk of being summarily turned out of the property. In such cases, many choose to allow their current spouse to live in the home for a period of time, sometimes for the duration of their life, with the property passing to the children once that period has passed.
This can be accomplished by providing for each child separately within one’s estate plan. In some cases, individuals wish to leave a greater share of wealth to their biological children than their stepchildren. For others, the decision is made strictly according to the ages and levels of need that each child has. Each New Jersey family will have a different set of needs, and it is possible to tailor an estate planning solution that addresses these complexities.
Source: Forbes, “6 Things to Consider When Estate planning for Your Second Family“, Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Aug. 6, 2014