The U.S. divorce rate has gone down in recent years, but it is still over 40%. This means that many of us have parents on a second (or third) marriage, some of which lasted longer than the first one with children. So as couples get their affairs in order, it is likely that they will need to consider children, stepchildren, grandchildren as well as their spouse.

We all hope that a blended marriage is a blissful one where everyone gets along. This may be the current tone, but the death of a parent has a way of putting unexpected stress upon families that can lead to discord among beneficiaries.

Tips for blended families

Perhaps an estate plan was all worked out before the marriage, but circumstances change over time. Parents of blended families will need to be realistic about their estate and how they want to address all foreseeable issues. Tips for doing this include:

  • Have a plan: It is a considerable burden to leave any spouse with an out of date will, trust or estate plan, especially if there is a business or several significant assets to distribute.
  • Update the plan: Update estate plans after divorce and after a new marriage to reflect these shifts. If there is no up to date plan, families can guess or disagree over the wishes of the deceased, and it will likely lead to mistakes and wasted money as well.
  • Create a trust for the spouse: A trust can ensure that the surviving spouse is cared for while also protecting assets and ensuring that they are dispersed efficiently upon their death or before.
  • Have a remarriage contingency: It is common for a spouse to remarry, particularly if they were younger, to ensure that assets stay with the family.
  • Pick the right executor or trustee: Perhaps there is someone qualified to handle these matters, but family members may not have the interest or aptitude in handling the arrangements.
  • Pass some assets to beneficiaries at or before death: Individuals and couples can disperse assets under a certain threshold without paying taxes, which can be a tremendous help to beneficiaries.

Attorneys can provide guidance

Experienced estate law attorneys can help couples and families draft and update their wills, estates or trusts. They can also offer families (blended or otherwise) a steady and neutral figure who can handle all the details and work to resolve issues that appear during the probate process.