What is a Blended Family?
A blended family is created when two people marry and bring children from a previous relationship, or marriage. Perhaps, one spouse was married previously, or both partners may have a child, or multiple children from the past. Blended families may also be created through adoption or foster care. Regardless, a new family exists and all present and possible future children deserve protection.
How Can You Protect Your Children When You Remarry?
When you bring children from a previous marriage, or relationship into a second marriage there are several steps you may take. In order to protect your children consider:
- Prenuptial Agreement- This legal document is established BEFORE you are married. It outlines how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce or death. It may also specify how your children are cared for during the marriage. Working with an experienced attorney ensures this document is legally sound.
- Life Insurance- Buying a life insurance policy and naming your children as beneficiaries is an added layer of protection.
What are Necessary Parts of an Estate Plan for Blended Families?
The components of a blended family’s estate plan is similar to most estate plans. The only difference is the complexity due to the custodial issues. Here are some necessary parts:
- Will – A will outlines how assets will be distributed after death. In a blended family, it is vital to be very specific to avoid future disagreements.
- Trust – A trust avoids probate court and is similar to a will. A trust may provide for minor children, or any disabled family members.
- Power of Attorney – When you designate a power of attorney, and they accept the role, that person becomes responsible for making decisions for you if you become incapacitated, or die. This is an extremely important role and most attorneys recommend having a second power of attorney, in case the first one is unavailable.
- Healthcare Directives – A healthcare directive allows the designated person to make healthcare decisions for you, if you are incapacitated. This document should be reviewed often. In a blended family, it’s important to note that a non-biological step-parent may not have the authority to seek medical care for a stepchild, unless the child has been adopted. It remains vital to discuss the legality of this issue with your attorney.
- Guardianship – You should appoint guardians for your children in case both of you pass away. Once again, a non-custodial biological parent has rights in this area. Discuss this with your attorney.
- Beneficiary Designations – Update all beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and any other assets.
In summary, without estate planning documents your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes. Also, if you become incapacitated who cares for your children? So, it remains important to contact an experienced estate planning attorney before, or after your marriage to obtain vital documents that protect your family.