The Blended Family: Providing for Spouses, Children and Stepchildren
March 28th, 2017
When dividing property, fairness is essential, but it's also subjective. Thinking about wills and who you want to inherit your assets is difficult for anyone, but the process is more complex for blended families. Some of the same rules apply. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you can provide for your loved ones. You should be comfortable with your decisions. In addition to selecting beneficiaries, you need to make sure that you have picked the right person (called the personal representative in Florida (elsewhere, an executor or executrix)) to carry out your wishes. If you can, you should work with your partner to reach an agreement when providing for each member of your blended family.
Providing For Your Children
As a parent, you want to support your children at every stage of their lives from buying their first car to completing college and having children of their own. It's a good idea to make sure that your estate plan protects your children from themselves. This could mean putting restrictions on when and how your children can use their inheritance. You could specify that the funds can be used only for college tuition and essential expenses in the beginning. You can also state when your children will be able to access their inheritance in full.
Providing For Your Stepchildren
If you are close to your stepchildren, you may already know that you want each family member to receive an equal share of your assets. If you decide that you would like to include your stepchildren in your will, you should take precautions to ensure that the inheritance is protected from excessive, reckless spending just as you would when distributing assets to your own children. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have children from a previous marriage, you may both agree that you want to provide for your children separately. The decision may depend on your relationship with your stepchildren and whether you and your spouse have jointly owned assets. Using trusts, life insurance policies, and other beneficiary-designated plans can help you structure for these situations.
Providing for Your Spouse
When providing for your spouse and your children or stepchildren, you probably want to be certain to protect everyone while treating everyone fairly. Supporting your spouse or partner shouldn't be done at the expense of your children. Even if your children will be the ultimate beneficiaries of your estate, you can make sure that your spouse is financially secure and has a comfortable place to live.
Your house is often one of your most valuable assets. It is especially important to understand how the laws in Florida affect your homestead and your spouse and children. Florida has very specific laws about how you can leave your home in your will if you are married and if you have minor children. If you are married to someone not the parent of your minor children, the laws are more particular. It is essential to work with someone who understands these rules to prevent potential lawsuits and challenges to your estate plan in the future.
Taking the Next Steps
Adequate planning can protect your loved ones from probate and costly disputes while giving you peace of mind. Each family has a unique dynamic that must be considered before a plan is put in place. My goal is to help you assess these requirements and to make sure that the approach is appropriate for your situation. If you are ready to think about the future, contact an estate planning attorney to arrange a consultation to better determine your individual needs and goals.