With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent in the United States, blended families have become the norm in today’s society. If you have just created a blended family, or are planning to do so in the near future, there are a number of changes that you may need to make to your existing estate plan in order to reflect your new status as a blended family. Although each family is unique, the following are possible options to consider.
- Adding Your Spouse to Titles. Titles to real property, vehicles or anything else that your wish to share with your new spouse should now reflect that desire. Anything titled in your name alone will likely be held up in probate for some time in the event of your death. Various methods are available to avoid probate.
- Updating Your Last Will and Testament or Living Trust. If you wish to include your new spouse and/or step-children in your estate plan, your Will or Trust must be updated to reflect your intentions.
- Changing Beneficiaries on Life Insurance Policy. Often, the beneficiary on a life insurance policy is still the ex-spouse because there are minor children to consider. You may need to purchase a new policy depending on the terms of your divorce or you may simply be able to add your new spouse to an existing policy.
- Changing Beneficiary of Retirement Accounts: This is also something that may, or may not, be possible. In some cases, your ex-spouse may be entitled to remain the beneficiary by law or by the terms of the divorce. Check your divorce settlement agreement or judgment.
Planning for all the interested persons in a blended family situation can be very complex, so it is important to consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. Failing to plan will likely cause significant problems and unduly expensive and protracted legal proceedings followin one’s incapacity or death as these same persons fight over control and assets. This is certainly not the legacy that you should leave to your loved ones.