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The Law and Blended Families

Posted On: September 17, 2014

Blending families is always a challenge, but it is one that most agree is worth it. When families change and parents find new partners with which to share their life, it affects everyone involved. Children must adjust, relationships with former partners might change, and legal issues arise. The social, psychological, and economic challenges are enough to make anyone feel stress, but a little planning and support go a long way. Ultimately, your goal as a blended family is to protect your children, your new partner, and his or her children, and to blend your new family as seamlessly as possible.

What should you know about the legal issues blended families might encounter?

Your Children
One day your children will be entitled to an inheritance from you. Ensuring the assets you want them to have transfer without any legal challenges takes a bit of planning. It is important to speak to an attorney familiar with estate planning, so he or she can help you create a will that addresses these issues. In most cases, your partner or spouse becomes the beneficiary of a significant portion if not all of your estate by default, so if you would like to determine the distribution of your estate, you must take action to ensure this occurs.

Your New Partner
Most couples in blended families tend to combine their wealth. Assets obtained after marriage are in the names of both spouses and partners are listed as beneficiaries on retirement plans and life insurance policies. Keep in mind if you die before changing your beneficiaries and/or without having made specific arrangements regarding changes to your estate; your new spouse and your children could find they are accidentally disinherited. Further you could have a circumstance that your assets pass to your spouse and upon his or her death, those assets could pass to his or her children or even his or her new spouse, if there is a future marriage after you are gone. Chances are you want your new partner to inherit a portion of your estate and you want to protect him or her as much as your children. However, once your family is blended, it is very important you address specific issues concerning your estate. Assets will not automatically funnel to your children as they would if you were married to their mother or father.

Other Issues to Consider
In addition to updating your Will and beneficiaries on various items when your family blends, you will also want to consider a few other important factors. Both you and your new partner should discuss financial goals and make decisions about spending, investing, and saving. Establishing mutual financial goals is a great way to plan for the future and commit to the practical, financial aspect of your new relationship. Take his or her priorities into account when planning. If you both have children, create a fair plan that reiterates you are both ready and willing to provide for and protect your new family.

According to statistics from the US Census Bureau about one third of all marriages include at least one partner who was previously married. This means he or she might bring assets, retirement funds, and children to the new relationship.

If your relationships have led to a complicated family tree, take time to plan your estate and work with a professional who understands the complexities of a blended family.

If you need help in this area or have questions feel free contact attorney SPIRIO at 631-277-8844