Addressing Unique Family Situations: How Estate Planning Can Accommodate Blended Families

February 15, 2024
Jennifer Nichols

A blended family is one where one or both spouses enter a marriage with children from a prior relationship. This can present unique challenges and concerns when it comes to estate planning. The most common concern is that the children from the current marriage will be given preferential treatment to the children from prior relationships. Fortunately, this problem can be easily addressed through careful and thoughtful estate planning. J Nichols Law, PLLC can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning for your blended family.

Understand What Is at Stake

If you don’t have an estate plan in place, your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to Texas’s intestate succession laws. These laws are somewhat complicated, but the bottom line is that your assets may be distributed in ways that you didn’t anticipate. For example, half of your community property (the property accumulated during your current marriage) will go to your children, including your children from a prior marriage, instead of to your surviving spouse. This can result in considerable financial hardship for your spouse. An outdated estate plan can also result in undesirable outcomes, particularly if it was created during your prior marriage or before you remarried.

Update Your Beneficiaries

This may seem obvious, but many people forget about their life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets with designated beneficiaries. When engaging in estate planning, a good first step for blended families is to review these assets and ensure the named beneficiaries reflect your current preferences.

Pre- and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are typically considered in the context of a divorce, but they can also be a useful estate planning tool. They can be used to clarify which assets will be considered part of the marital estate and which assets will not. This can be helpful for determining which assets will go to the children of a prior marriage versus which assets will go to the children of the current spouse.

Trust Creation

Trusts are a popular estate planning tool primarily because of their flexibility. A trust can allow you to identify specific assets and who will inherit them. If you do this by means of a revocable living trust, you can retain control over these assets during your lifetime. An experienced estate planning attorney can draft a trust tailored to your family’s unique dynamics.

Guardianship Considerations

One of the things that requires careful consideration is who will care for your children after you are gone. In situations involving blended families, the surviving spouse may not be the best person to care for your children from a prior marriage. A lot of conflict and other potential issues can be avoided by giving this some thought and establishing guardianship provisions in advance.

Contact J Nichols Law, PLLC to Discuss Your Family’s Estate Planning Needs

Every family is unique, especially blended families. Your family deserves better than a one-size-fits-all estate plan – contact J Nichols Law by calling 409-257-7878 to discuss how we can help protect your family’s future.