Estate Planning for Blended Families
Every family should have an estate plan of their own, one created by an attorney who focuses on this area of the law. For blended families—families with children from a previous marriage—estate planning is even more critical. Why? For one reason, the interests of a current spouse and any mutual children often conflict with the desire to provide for one’s children from a previous marriage.
How Estate Planning for Blended Families is Unique
Consider the following example. If a person passes away and all of the estate’s assets are left to the new spouse, children from a previous marriage may not be provided for in the manner the deceased spouse would have wanted. Similarly, if assets are left only to prior children at the death of their parent, there may not be enough assets remaining in the estate to provide for the current spouse or family. Even with a harmonious blended family, failure to create and implement an estate plan may lead to unforeseen problems.
In situations where death occurs without a Will or Trust in place, statutory intestacy rules may remove a substantial portion of the deceased spouse’s estate from the current marriage and give it to the children from the previous marriage. This can happen even if the prior children are now adults and have less need for the assets than the spouse and minor children of the current marriage.
In situations where the prior children are minors, an ex-spouse might be able to gain control of the assets. At the very least, each spouse in a blended family should have a Will. Without one, assets will almost certainly be distributed to heirs in a manner contrary to what the deceased spouse would have wanted.
Wills vs. Trusts for Blended Families
A properly designed and adequately funded Trust, or a combination of Trusts, is a much better approach than a Will for blended families. Trusts can provide for the surviving spouse while ensuring a portion of the assets goes to children from the previous marriage.
One such Trust, which provides an excellent form of asset protection, is called a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP). The QTIP Trust can generate income for the benefit of the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime. When the surviving spouse passes away, the QTIP Trust’s assets can be distributed between mutual and prior children according to the wishes of the previously deceased spouse.
Also, if the children from the previous marriage are young, assets from the QTIP Trust can be held in another trust for the children, under the control of an independent trustee. This can prevent the assets from falling under an ex-spouse’s control.
Professional Help From an Estate Planning Lawyer
This is but one example of what a properly designed, funded, and implemented Trust can help blended families accomplish. To learn more about how we can address your particular needs and goals, contact The Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen for a personal meeting with our estate planning attorney serving the DC and Maryland area.
With over 35 years of experience, Mr. Cohen has the insight and knowledge needed to craft the estate plan that best fits your blended family’s needs. Contact us today at (202) 895-2799 for a free case evaluation.