What’s a “blended family?”

This article is about second marriage estate planning and the blended family. A second marriage in estate planning is sometimes referred to as the “Blended Family” situation. The term describes where one or both spouses in a marriage have been married before. Each spouse has children and or grandchildren that are not related to the other spouse. This creates a conflict between caring for the spouse, and the children by a prior marriage in one’s estate plan. While there is a natural conflict here, it doesn’t need to be a problem.

That’s How We All Became the Brady Bunch

Blended families are the classic “Brady Bunch” scenario. You remember the t.v. show? Carole Brady had three kids, and Mike Brady had three kids. …And “this group had somehow formed a family….” as the theme song went. Well what happens when Mr. Brady dies? You see, he had a reciprocal will plan with Mrs. Brady. Mike left everything to Carole. They both visited a lawyer together to make their wills. Each left everything to the other and equally to the kids after they both died. Mike relied upon Carole to leave a share to his kids by his prior wife. Or, perhaps Mike just didn’t think about it.

Definition of blended family – a married couple where one or both of the spouses has children and or grandchildren from a prior relationship.

Remarriage: What if Carole Brady Gets Remarried

But what if Carole changes her will after Mike dies? After all, there is nothing to stop her. But Carole gets swept away by a new relationship and remarries.  After all, Mike would not have wanted Carole to be alone after he died. It’s only natural. But, after a few years, busy with their own lives, and not really digging Carole’s new wife, Mike’s kids stop visiting Carole. Carole, feeling hurt, simply writes them out of her will. In the Estate Planning arena this is called the “last man standing” scenario. The last man, or woman, decides where both the husband and the wife’s property goes. That is the simplest example of the issues in second marriage estate planning and the blended family.

What is the Issue with a Blended Family?

In a nutshell, the dilemma of the blended family estate plan is to insure that no matter which spouse dies first, the plan of each spouse is carried out- and not just the last person standing. It is likely that both Mike and Carole wanted their estates shared out to their beneficiaries in a way that both would want to have happen – no matter who dies first. In many instances, the sentiment is “my stuff should go to my kids”. And if not all of my stuff, at least some share.

Blended-Family Estate Planning Does Not Cause Hard Feelings

Even though there is a conflict here, it does not need to be contentious. It is a practical fact. The moral of the story is that people would rather not think about the reasons for estate planning. But, while it may be more pleasant not to think about estate planning, its better for everyone if you do. Let’s imagine that instead of a reciprocal “last person standing” will plan, Mike decided to engage in blended family planning. He leaves a part of his estate in a way that his kids are guaranteed to get something. Carole is fine with that. Why? Because she could die first, and Mike could be the one who remarries. It may not be fun to think about the possibility of unexpected death or a widowed spouse’s remarriage, but one thing is for certain: Mike Brady didn’t want to cut his own kids out of his estate.

Review Your Estate Plan

Nevertheless, without reviewing their estate with an estate planning law firm, without recognizing the need to engage in blended family estate planning, neither one had the result they would have wished for. They had estate planning documents. That wasn’t the problem. In Mr. Brady’s case, he had a will. The problem is they didn’t have an estate planning attorney who planned for blended families. Remember, documents are not a plan.
Blended families especially need to make an estate plan.

Second Marriage Estate Planning and the Blended Family

Review your estate plan.

Review your named beneficiary. Know where your property will be going, and make sure it’s what you expect and want to have happen. An estate planning law firm can offer options that keep the peace between the spouses, but protect both of their kids and grandkids. An estate planning Maintenance Plan will ensure that as life and the law changes, your expectations don’t have to. Your estate plan will be effective and up to date no matter what. Soyka Bifulco law firm has many tools and offers many options for second marriage estate planning and the blended family situation.

More Food for Thought

more estate planning articles estate planning scenarios

  • What if Mike forgot to change his beneficiary designation on his insurance policy from his ex-wife?
  • Mike wasn’t concerned about Carole remarrying, but, after Mike died, and left everything to Carole, Carole went into a nursing home, and lost it all?
  • Bobby had a motorcycle accident, and became disabled, and then after Mike died, Bobby’s share of his father’s estate disqualified him from means tested disability benefits?
  • Who should Mike designate as the beneficiary of his IRA?

…things to think about when making your estate plan.

Have questions about Second Marriage Estate Planning and the Blended Family right now? Contact one of the estate planning attorneys at Soyka Bifulco Law Firm.

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