There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all estate planning, and that’s especially true when it comes to blended families in Massachusetts.
When you think about it, even “nuclear families” (a husband and wife who’ve never been married before and maybe have a couple of kids together) have their work cut out for them when creating estate plans. Most families have amassed their fair share of assets — even if it’s just a trove of trinkets with little more than sentimental value. Fairly providing for everybody in the family takes times and consideration.
Add divorce, second marriages, stepparents, and step kids to the mix? Then things really get complicated.
I recently came across a helpful article on this subject in Gannett’s The Spectrum, an online news magazine. It focuses on the single biggest estate-planning dilemma that any member of a blended family faces: balancing the many competing interests in a network of “exes” and “steps” who might not see eye to eye.
“Your challenge,” Spectrum tells blended families, “is to divide your assets among your heirs according to your wishes, while minimizing both estate tax and animosity among family members.” Easier said than done! With the right strategies in place, though, it can be accomplished.
In “nuclear” or “original” marriages, there is a temptation among spouses to simply leave everything to each other. That isn’t an ideal approach for anyone, but it’s especially problematic in the blended context.
Consider, for example, someone who had kids in her first marriage and then remarried and had additional children in the second marriage. Leaving everything to the new spouse might more or less take care of that second family (though not without some potential problems), but what about the children from the first marriage?
Of course, that’s just one example of the “blenders’ burden.” Families are complicated and so are the laws of inheritance. There is a lot to consider, so it’s generally not a good idea to try to square everything away on your own.
If you’re in a blended family, it might be time to update your estate plan to account for the latest changes in your life. If you’d like some experienced counsel and advice along the way, I’d be happy to help. Just give me a call.