If you have a blended family and do not plan for what happens to your assets in the event of your incapacity or eventual death, you are almost certainly guaranteeing hurt feelings, conflict, and maybe even a long, drawn out court battle.
So let’s start with clarity around what a blended family is and whether you have one. If you have stepchildren, or children from a prior marriage, or other people you consider “kin” who are not considered legal relatives in the eyes of the law, you’ve got a blended family.
If this describes you at all, you should consider a thoughtful estate plan intentionally designed to keep your family out of court and out of conflict, and not just a will you created for yourself online.
What Will the Law Do?
“Blended Families", once considered “non-traditional” families are swiftly becoming the norm. Currently 52% of married couples (or unmarried couples who live together) have a stepkin relationship of some kind, and 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage. So, clearly, this is no longer “non-traditional” but quite traditional, though our laws about what happens if you become incapacitated or die are still very much based on what traditional used to mean.
Every state has different provisions for what happens when you become incapacitated or die, and the laws of the state where you become incapacitated or die may or may not match your wishes.
For example, in Minnesota, if you are survived by a spouse, your surviving spouse would receive a part of your estate if you have living children who aren't biologically children of the surviving spouse, and your living children would receive the rest. But in Minnesota, the surviving spouse's share, is quite large compared to what it may be in other states.
This example should show you that what’s true when you die, may not result in the outcome you want for your loved ones, especially if you have a blended family situation.
Disputes Between Spouse and Children from Previous Marriage
One of the most common problems that arises in a blended family is that the deceased’s children from a prior marriage and the surviving spouse end up in conflict. This one is sadly common. Unless a comprehensive plan has been created, it could be very easy for your surviving spouse to cut your kids out to a very large extent; maybe even completely.
With the complexities of modern families, it’s better to know than to leave it to the law or a court to provide. That way, not only do the people you love get the assets that you want them to receive, but you may also be saving them from years of legal conflict.
How Do You Avoid This All?
If any of the above resonates with you, it is vital that you take steps towards creating an actual estate plan - outside of the default plan your state may provide - to prevent conflict and court battles between your family members. There are many moving parts to an estate plan, and you probably already know about some like wills, trusts, powers of attorney and beneficiary designation transfers. Your plan can be as simple or complex as you need. To figure out what makes sense for you, make sure you work with an attorney who makes you feel comfortable that your goals for your family will be met.
This article is a service of Taylor Kaspar Law. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.