Blended families inspire unique legal challenges that could culminate in disruptions to the family unit later. For example, when one of the parents in a blended family eventually dies, there will likely be more conflict and uncertainty than there would be in a family where both parents have direct connections to the children.
Staving off such conflict is often a top priority for parents in blended families. There are certain estate planning tools that can be particularly beneficial for those in a blended family in this regard, including the three introduced below.
Many people with children rely on a will as their primary testamentary document. They simply want to ensure their children receive the right property from their estate and that there is a guardian to take care of them if anything should happen. Given the possibility of a conflict between stepparents and stepchildren or children and stepchildren, a trust can sometimes prove useful for those reworking an estate plan for a blended family. Trusts can give more long-term control over what happens with assets and can reduce the likelihood of probate litigation.
Health care directives
If one adult in the family experiences a medical emergency and cannot communicate their wishes to others, family members could end up fighting over the right course of treatment or even the right facility for someone’s treatment. Health care directives that very thoroughly explain someone’s medical preferences can reduce the likelihood of stepparents and stepchildren fighting over the care someone receives and damaging their relationship as a result.
Durable powers of attorney
Particularly if one spouse is significantly older than the other, there may be reason to believe that they will experience health issues or cognitive decline that could create challenges for the family unit. Durable powers of attorney help ensure that someone other than just a spouse can manage financial and medical matters for someone experiencing a medical emergency. They can also allow someone to name a person they trust to fill the same role that a guardian or conservator would without leaving themselves at the mercy of whoever seeks that authority.
Carefully considering family dynamics and one’s long-term wishes can help adults put together more effective estate plans when starting a blended family with a new spouse.