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Estate planning and blended families

Blended families are now more common than ever before. In a blended family, talking about children may turn out to be more of a "your children ... my children ... " conversation. So if you and your spouse have a blended family, how do you accomplish your estate planning?

Deciding who gets what when you both have children from a previous marriage can be challenging to say the least. If you and/or your spouse are touchy when it comes to your blended family, this is a subject you probably would rather avoid.

Here are some things to consider:

How do you and your spouse own your assets?

If you married when you were older, you both may have come with your own individual assets. You may want your assets to go to your children and your spouse's to his or her children.

If you married while your children were young and raised them together, hopefully, your family is now fully blended. Your assets are probably fully blended as well. More than likely, you will want to divide your shared assets between all of your children, including stepchildren. However, if you do not have a legal will, assets belonging only to you will pass to your biological children or adopted children, but will not pass to your stepchildren without a legal document.

If my spouse is still alive when I pass away, how can I be sure my children are not left out when he or she passes away?

This can definitely be an issue. Things can change dramatically, and the last thing you want is fighting between relatives after you are gone. This can be avoided by putting your assets in a trust for your children, but that allows your spouse to use and manage them while he or she is alive.

Estate planning may be more difficult when you have a blended family, but that is why it is so important that you don't put it off. Imagine the difficulties your surviving family members may go through if these decisions are not already made. Your assets could end up in probate court and family ties broken for good.

Source: The Dedham Transcript, "Five Planning Considerations for Blended Families," Maria Baler, Dec. 07, 2017

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