No will is the same; however, some wills are more complicated than others because of family dynamics and related situations. One family dynamic that makes a will slightly more complex is when a blended family is involved. A blended family—made up of families that come together over time with new relationships—often requires navigating more family dynamics to discern who an individual will leave their assets to. This may involve updating the will as relationships change. Below are some of the most common challenges faced by blended families during the estate planning process—along with how to avoid these issues.
How to Divide the Assets in an Estate Plan
For many blended families, it can be difficult for the person drafting the will—called the testator—to decide who to leave their assets to. They will likely want to provide for their family, and this family may include stepchildren, children from a previous marriage, and other close relatives. Therefore, it might be challenging to decide how much to give to each—especially if some loved ones are either not legally connected to the testator or if family members do not get along.
While there is not one single solution to this issue, estate planning attorneys will often advise clients to create separate trusts for various loved ones, including the current spouse and the testator’s children. Therefore, if the spouse has children from a previous marriage not mentioned in the estate plan, they can still benefit from the assets in the trust.
Other options in dividing the estate vary depending on the assets in the estate, including leaving the spouse the house and personal property, while bequeathing solely financial assets to the children.
Disputes Over the Will
When members of a blended family do not get along, it may lead to disputes over the estate plan when someone passes away. To avoid these issues, it is crucial the testator discuss his will with loved ones, so they know what they will inherit. This also allows family members to get their disagreements out in the open now and discuss them rather than start legal battles over the estate plan in the future. Will contests can be a long, and expensive process.
Not Having a Will in Place
The worst mistake a person could make is to pass away without a will in place—especially if they are a part of a blended family. If a person dies without a will, their assets are distributed according to the Texas laws of intestacy. According to Texas laws, the deceased’s current spouse and their children will receive most of their assets—this ignores any stepchildren or other close family members.
Because Texas laws on inheritance rely on basic family structures, it is imperative for people in a blended family to contact an estate planning attorney who will ensure their assets are left according to their wishes—not the default inheritance laws.
Do You Need to Create an Estate Plan for Your Blended Family?
If you or a loved one does not have an estate plan currently in place, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We have extensive experience drafting estate plans and wills for a wide variety of families and situations, and our attorneys are here to create an estate plan that works for you. To schedule a free, no-risk consultation, give us a call today at 713-333-8900.