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Estate planning for blended families

Today's definition of family comes in many configurations. Second and third marriages, multiple children and property accumulated prior to and during a marriage make for complex estate planning issues. When a blended family presents, it's important that parents take certain steps with regard to estate planning matters to ensure for the benefit of both a surviving spouse and children.

When it comes to second or third marriages, there is often friction between a stepparent and stepchildren. When a parent and spouse die, this friction can quickly erupt into a raging inferno. Thankfully, there are estate planning tools that can be used to greatly mitigate quarreling amongst a surviving spouse and children from a previous marriage.

When planning for end of life matters, a married individual with children from a previous marriage must plan wisely in order to benefit both their surviving spouse and children. Take for example, a married couple that meets later on in life. Both have two grown children from previous marriages. The couple lives in a home which the man owned prior to meeting his new spouse.

Upon the man's death, the surviving spouse would be entitled to receive one-third ownership of the residence. The remaining two-thirds ownership would be split equally amongst the man's children. In this scenario, the surviving spouse and children now own the home as tenants in common, a situation which is likely to cause some quarreling particularly if the surviving spouse is still occupying the residence.

Thankfully, a skilled estate planning professional can help individuals with complex familial situations plan accordingly for end of life matters. The best gift any parent or spouse can give surviving loved ones is peace of mind. Estate planning tools such as trusts and life insurance can help ensure assets are distributed according to an individual's wishes while also minimizing conflict.

Source: Lake County News, "Estate Planning: Disentangling stepparents and stepchildren," Dennis Fordham, Feb. 2, 2013

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