With over half of all marriages in America ending in divorce, it is no surprise that the number of blended families has also steadily increased over the past few decades. If you are one of those people whose is planning to remarry in the near future, you are likely concerned about how to create a successful blended family. Often, the partners in a blended family bring with them children from previous relationships as well as assets and debts. Discussing your financial strategy with your future spouse or domestic partner is one of the keys to creating a harmonious blended family. When you do sit down to discuss finances with your soon to be spouse, be sure that the two of you also discuss how you plan to handle assets for purposes of estate planning after your marriage.
Deciding whether to combine assets can be a difficult decision after a second or subsequent marriage. Some assets, such as inheritance money, or family heirlooms, may be better left as separate assets so as not to create confusion or conflict if they are intended to be left to children from a previous relationship.
You may, however, wish to consider converting other accounts to joint accounts, or titling assets jointly, for a variety of reasons after your marriage. By converting to jointly held assets, your new spouse may be able to have immediate access to the asset in the event of your death. If you anticipate that your spouse may need the assets, or funds, for his or her support, or for the support of any future children, then converting to jointly held or “pay on death” accounts or titles is one option.
Comprehensive estate planning for blended families is essential because the potential for conflict and even litigation upon the death or incapacity of a spouse is far greater than in traditional one marriage families with only children from the same marriage. The best place to start is to consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. Do not expect to find good advice on the complexities of planning for blended families from do-it-yourself estate planning books, CDs, and websites. This is not the place to look for bargain prices, because the costs associated with incomplete and defective planning will likely far exceed the costs associated with completing a thoughtful and complete plan properly prepared by the right attorney.