The shape of the American family is not what it was in generations past. Today’s families in New Jersey and across the nation are often comprised of a blend of children from the current and previous unions. This diversity makes family life far more complex and interesting than in previous decades, but it also brings about a range of challenges. One such challenge involves the need to take a carefully considered approach to estate planning, to ensure that everyone’s needs are properly addressed.
Consider, as an example, a family in which both spouses bring a child into the marriage. That couple then has a child together. If their estate plan is structured in such a way that the surviving spouse inherits all of the family’s assets, a problem could arise in ensuring that all of the children are eventually treated evenly. The surviving spouse could amend his or her own estate plans to disinherit the child of the deceased spouse.
While no one likes to consider that their partner might make such a change, it is impossible to predict the actions that anyone might take in the years to come. A better approach is to structure one’s estate plans to clearly outline which assets are intended to pass to which heirs. Children can be protected by the establishment of trusts, which shelter assets until such time as the child reaches a pre-designated age and inherits the assets directly. In the case of a family home, it is possible to structure a plan in which the surviving spouse has the right to live within the property for the duration of his or her life, with the property then passing to the intended heirs.
There are a wide range of estate planning solutions that can address the needs of a blended family. However, in order to reap these benefits, it is necessary to sit down and go over the options. Doing so will endure that all loved ones are cared for in the event of a death in the family. Many in New Jersey find a great deal of peace of mind is achieved once this important financial planning task has been completed.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Estate Planning for Blended Families“, Alexandra Smyser, Feb. 27, 2015