Blended families face estate planning
How would you like
your ex-spouse to inherit your house, your bank accounts and your retirement benefits
despite the fact you willed them to your children? What if your father's estate
wound up in the hands of your stepbrother even though dad promised the farm to
inheritance snafus happen with some regularity to blended families, in which husband,
wife or both bring together assets and children from a previous marriage.
families now outnumber traditional nuclear families in the United States, according
to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the trend is expected to continue as divorce rates
climb and we live longer, creating a greater pool of eligible widows and widowers.
planning for blended families is complex, and potentially caustic. The strictly
monetary decisions are difficult enough. But the very circumstances surrounding
the merging of two families, typically divorce or the death of a spouse, often
emit added emotional and psychological radiation that can have considerable and
new family and old ties
traditional husband-wife-and-children model, blended families must take into account
yours, mine and ours, plus, in many cases, ex-spouses and multiple sets of grandparents.
The disparity in the ages of the newly-reweds, as well as
the ages of their children, also can have major ramifications for estates. And
let's not forget that yarn ball of tangled state and federal case law that relates
to retirement plans, life insurance, estate taxes, wills and probate issues.
only natural to want to pass on the fruits of your life's work to your biological
children. But you also want to provide for your spouse and create one happy and
loving family from your two broods. It's a delicate balancing act.
are previous children that need to be taken into consideration," says Gary
S. Williams, a Certified Financial Planner in Columbia, Md. "I think it's
fundamental to have a perception of fairness to all children involved."
when the blended family members seem to get along, financial planning can be complicated.
The potential for suspicion, acrimony and worse among skeptical siblings (and
half-siblings and step-siblings) can be so great that some folks simply choose
to avoid addressing the issue of inheritance altogether, sometimes until it's
And the best of intentions still can go awry. Kyle
Krull, a CFP and estate-planning attorney in Overland Park, Kan., has seen it