Every family is unique, and each estate plan requires some level of a catered approach to ensure assets are allocated to the right beneficiaries, and it’s especially true for a blended family, a family in which at least one spouse has at least one child from a prior marriage or relationship.
In families where all the children are a product of a single marriage, reciprocal Wills are most often used in order to pass along an estate to a surviving spouse, which then passes on to their children when the remaining spouse passes away. This simple, mirrored-image reciprocal Will works well for that nuclear family unit; however, nearly half of all families in the U.S. are blended and have other, more tailored estate needs to ensure their assets end up benefitting their surviving spouse and children.
Reciprocal sounds peaceful, so why isn’t it right for my blended family?
As mentioned, a reciprocal Will is best suited for a non-blended family, as this means of planning holds no guarantee that your surviving spouse in a blended family will provide for your children from your previous marriage or relationship. Though many blended families opt for reciprocal Wills due to their simplicity and lower cost, this estate planning method has tremendous and costly disadvantages that can be easily remedied by a non-reciprocal Will, and even more so by a specific type of trust called a QTIP.
Trust me—trust being the operative word.
To appropriately and wholly plan for a blended family, it is very strongly recommended to have a non-reciprocal Will, as well as a trust. One of the most beneficial types of trusts that provide for the surviving spouse and children in a blended family is the QTIP trust, which can be used to leave assets that can provide income to your surviving spouse throughout their lifetime. At the time of their death, your children from your prior marriage can inherit the remainder of the trust assets. These assets are protected in the QTIP trust and are not able to be redistributed or misappropriated in the event that your surviving spouse remarries or unforeseen conflict ensues in your blended family after your passing.
Why do I need an experienced estate-planning attorney to plan for my blended family’s future?
Because we live in a world of shades of gray, and there is no one-size-fits-all option for estate planning, sound estate preparation with experienced legal counsel can secure your assets for your intended beneficiaries no matter the change in family dynamics after your having passed away. Depending on your family’s specific situation and needs, an estate-planning attorney can select and execute several forms of planning strategy.
Whichever of the myriad estate-planning strategies you decide works best for you, your estate plan should be tailored to your family’s specific needs. Contact one of our seasoned attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs and ensure you’ve appropriately prepared for your family’s future.