If two adult children in a blended family receive a lot more financial help from their parent and stepparents than other children, Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law, LLC has found that there may be expectations that the parent’s estate plan will be structured to address any unequal distributions. This unique circumstance requires a unique solution, as explained in the article “Estate Planning: A Trust Can Be Used to Protect Blended Families” from The Daily Sentinel. Blended families in which adult children and stepchildren have grandchildren also require unique estate planning.
Blended families face the question of what happens if one parent dies and the surviving step parent remarries. If the deceased spouse’s estate was given to the surviving step parent, will those assets be used to benefit the deceased spouse’s children, or will the new spouse and their children be the sole beneficiaries?
In a perfect world, all children would be treated equally, and assets would flow to the right heirs. However, that does not always happen. There are many cases where the best of intentions is clear to all, but the death of the first spouse in a blended marriage changes everything.
Other events occur that change how the deceased’s estate is distributed. If the surviving step-spouse suffers from Alzheimer’s or experiences another serious disease, their judgement may become impaired.
All of these are risks that can be avoided, if proper estate planning for blended families is done by both parents while they are still well and living. Chief among these is a trust, as a simple will does not provide the level of control of assets needed in this situation. Don’t leave this to chance—there’s no way to know how things will work out.
A trust can be created so that the spouse will have access to assets while they are living. When they pass, the remainder of the trust can be distributed to the children.
If parents have helped out two children more than others in the blended family, the parents should consider that when creating their estate plan. What they would likely want to avoid is hard feelings among the heirs if there is a sense of inequitable distribution. This can be done with a gifting strategy, where children who felt their needs were being overlooked may receive gifts of any size that might be appropriate, in order to stem any feelings of resentment.
This is not to say that parents need to use their estate to satisfy their children’s expectations. However, in the case of the family above, it is a reasonable solution for that particular family and their dynamics.
Good estate planning for blended families addresses the parent’s needs and takes the children’s needs into consideration. Every parent needs to address their children’s unique needs and be able to distinguish their needs from wants. A gifting strategy, trusts and other estate planning tools can be explored in a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney like those at Beck & Lenox. We create estate plans specific to the unique needs of each family.
Reference: The Daily Sentinel (Dec. 16, 2020) “Estate Planning: A Trust Can Be Used to Protect Blended Families”