Anyone living in a blended family situation faces several estate planning concerns that non-blended family households do not share. Whether you have recently entered into a new marriage or have been living as a blended family for some time, there are several issues you will need to think about when making your estate plan. Here is a brief list.
Issue 1: Inheritances
Many parents of stepchildren want to leave those stepchildren some form of inheritance upon their death. However, your stepchildren may not automatically be entitled to inherit your property unless you have legally adopted them, or create an estate plan which specifically leaves an inheritance to them. Unlike your biological children, stepchildren are not automatically entitled to receive an inheritance.
Issue 2: Spousal Inheritances
If you plan on leaving your children an inheritance, this too can be problematic in blended family situations. Depending on the laws of your state, your spouse may be entitled to receive your entire estate if you do not create an estate plan. When this happens, your spouse then has the right to choose what inheritances he or she likes, and can, for example, choose to leave your biological children out of inheritance.
Issue 3: Prenuptial Agreements
If either spouse in a blended family has been previously divorced, this makes it much more likely for the current marriage to end in divorce. In many of these situations, the couple enters into a prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital agreement. These can be very helpful in allowing each spouse to ensure their own children receive an inheritance.
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