Estate planning provides the opportunity to ensure that certain family valuables will be divided among loved ones. This process deserves special attention even in straight-forward situations. When the distribution of an inheritance involves a blended or second family, the plan needs to be executed with even more care.
Estate Planning for Two Families
The key to successful estate planning is taking the time to decide who should or would want specific valuables being passed down to the next generation. Many people ensure that provisions are left for a spouse to live comfortably and then distribute the rest among their children. In the event that the person has a second family, however, dividing an inheritance becomes trickier.
Someone with a second family may have biological children from the first family as well as from the second. Stepchildren and multiple spouses add to the complexity. The dynamics of both families need to be carefully considered. An estate plan is a chance to pass down a legacy, not set the stage for family conflict and discord.
What Factors Should Be Considered?
Break down the process into manageable steps. Many factors will impact the final draft of the estate plan, but three key steps to take are:
- Evaluate commitment to the families: In the spirit of fairness, look at the time spent with the first family before the second one came into the picture. If children from both families, in a sense, grew up together, then approach estate planning from a “one-big-family” perspective, with a focus on the second spouse and regardless of whether or not the children are biological. If the children from the first family were much older when the second family began, then there is an obligation to the older children. Provisions can be arranged for stepchildren in the latter scenario through the second spouse’s portion of the inheritance.
- Outline the division of property: Take a realistic look at what valuables will be left to the family. Not all the valuables will have financial worth but may be precious to someone in particular. If that possession inadvertently goes to someone else in the estate plan, conflict may occur. The family home poses a particular dilemma for families when adult children feel that a second spouse does not deserve to have the family home. If those children grew up in the home from a young age, the decision regarding who gets the property will need to be carefully considered.
- Communicate: Once the basics of the estate plan are established, prepare the family members on what to expect. Explain the reasoning behind the decisions on who will receive what in the inheritance. Conversations may become tense, but it is better to resolve issues now rather than to leave it for the family to handle later.
If circumstances surrounding your estate plan could get complicated, contact Andrew M. Lamkin, an attorney experienced in estate planning. He can help ease the process and avoid potentially awkward moments with family. Call him about estate planning today to ensure your individual situation is managed effectively or fill out our contact form.