Blended families are incredibly common, and this term encompasses a vast array of family situations. Very often, however, blended families involve a marriage in which one or both spouses have children from a prior relationship. Sometimes the couple also has children in common, but this is not always the case. Because families are all different and the term blended family can mean so many things, the standard estate planning documents may not be enough to satisfy the planning goals of these families.
Typically, a married couple wishes to leave their combined assets to the survivor of them to use during his or her lifetime and then have their remaining assets ultimately inherited by their children and grandchildren. This becomes trickier when you do not have children and grandchildren in common. The standard “I love you Will” where the husband leaves everything to his wife and if she passes away before him, then to their children and vice versa is not going to satisfy everyone involved in a situation where the couple each has children from a prior relationship.
When couples come into a marriage with their own children, estate planning must be done mindfully to ensure that the needs of the surviving spouse are met but at the same time that each person is able to direct the ultimate disposition or their estate. In most cases, this will involve the use of a Trust.
A trust is a powerful and flexible tool that can be useful in myriad of situations. When it comes to blended families, trusts can be established that provide use of the couple’s assets to the surviving spouse after the death of the first spouse but not give them direct access or control. A trustee can be appointed to make distributions to the surviving spouse only for certain reasons – which can be dictated by both spouses before the first of them passes away. You may wish to choose a disinterested Trustee that will have the best interests of both your spouse and your children in mind.
The Trust has the distinct advantage of giving the surviving spouse the benefit of the deceased spouses’ assets while at the same time, the deceased spouse has the ability to control where the assets go when the second spouse dies. This is much more desirable to people than leaving everything to the survivor to do with as they please. This would allow them to turn around and cut out the children of the first spouse to die leaving everything to their own descendants. While you may believe your loving husband or wife would never make such a decision, life takes us all strange places and old age can leave the strongest of minds susceptible to undue influence or fraud and unfortunately not every circumstance can be anticipated. Often child-stepparent relationships are strained and the death of the glue that binds them often puts more pressure on these situations. By establishing trust terms while you are alive, you will be able to protect your own interests and “rule from the grave.”
Call the Law Offices of Roman Aminov, P.C. at 347-766-2685 to discuss the estate plan best suited to your unique and complex financial situation and family dynamic.
The Law Offices of Roman Aminov is an award winning Queens estate planning & probate lawyer. Call us now at 347-766-2685 to discuss your options and prepare for your future needs.
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