We work with Florida families and their loved ones facing a myriad of estate planning circumstances. Often, we find that married couples with blended families have different estate planning issues than married couples with traditional families. Blending multiple children from different marriages, often involving different retirement accounts and consideration of the current and future needs of both spouses, can create the need for a more complicated estate plan.
The beginning of a new year can be the perfect time to address estate planning for a blended family. Whether you are creating a Florida estate plan for the first time or revising an old estate plan, getting ahead in 2020 can be a good idea. An estate plan that encompasses all of your goals can help incorporate past changes, lay the legal groundwork for what lies ahead, and deliver peace of mind.
We know you may have Florida estate planning concerns. You may also have questions based on what exactly you need for your unique situation. Let us share with you four key considerations every blended family should consider in 2020.
1. A last will and testament is often not enough. A simple will may be sufficient for a surviving spouse within a nuclear family who plans to inherit a deceased spouse’s property and then bequeath remaining assets to their joint children, but it may not be. For example, what if the surviving spouse remarries? Traditionally, blended family couples have more complex situations to address. Each spouse may have premarital assets that are intended exclusively for biological children. Without a legally sound Florida estate plan, a surviving spouse may have no obligation to honor a deceased spouse’s wishes. He or she could drain assets intended for the deceased’s children, or even disinherit them down the road.
2. You need to talk about it together. Communication is critical in any relationship, and avoiding uncomfortable subjects such as Florida estate planning is a mistake. It is far better for blended family couples to communicate estate-related concerns than to simply leave it to loved ones and courts to resolve the issues after you are gone. One critical aspect of estate planning is that it helps avoid future litigation which can also prevent family relationships from fracturing. Preplanning is always crucial, but for blended families, its importance cannot be overstated.
3. Make it a family affair. Talk to your loved ones about your wishes for yourself and your legacy. While you may want to consider naming both your new spouse and a child on important estate documents, it may not be your best choice. While designating them as co-trustees on a family trust or agents on power of attorney documents can help everyone stay informed and work together for mutual benefit, it may also cause conflict if they cannot work together. This is something you will want to discuss in detail with your estate planning attorney and obtain his or her guidance on how to proceed.
4. Explore the benefits of trust agreements. Trusts can be ideal for blended families. There are different types of trusts offering different advantages depending on your circumstances and needs. Couples can keep their assets separate during their lifetimes and use specific trusts with favorable structures for retirement planning. Trusts, such as these, can generate income for the surviving spouse, as well as health and maintenance support, while bequeathing the principal of the assets to biological children. Trusts are flexible documents that can be written to handle a variety of situations. They can be tailored to meet the needs of complex family situations.
We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. We also know how challenging it can be to have these conversations, no matter what your age or marital status, and we want you to know that we are here to support you on this and any of your Florida estate planning concerns. Do not wait to contact our law office to schedule a meeting with us now, or anytime throughout the year.