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Estate Planning for Blended Families (Stepchildren/Remarriages)

Estate planning for blended families involves unique challenges. The complexity of blended family structures, which often involve several children from previous marriages, often calls for more intricate estate planning. Drafting a comprehensive estate plan as early as possible will help protect everyone’s interests, reduce conflict, and avoid legal pitfalls.

Why Careful Estate Planning for Blended Families Is So Important

If a Virginia resident dies without a will, their property will pass to heirs according to the Commonwealth of Virginia intestacy laws. The heirs are most often the decedent’s surviving spouse and children. However, the laws of intestacy overlook the nuances of blended families.

For example, while you may develop what is, for all intents and purposes, a family relationship with your stepchildren, they have no claim on your estate unless you name them as beneficiaries. That’s why you should set up an estate plan that reflects your present family situation and wishes regarding estate distribution.

What a Blended Family Estate Plan Should Include

Blended families can avoid stressful conflict and legal complications by starting the new marriage with a prenuptial agreement that specifies asset division in case of death or divorce. It’s also possible to create a postnuptial agreement if you didn’t draft a prenuptial agreement when you married.

Additionally, your blended family’s estate plan needs:

  • A detailed will. Apart from distributing assets, a will also names a trusted person as your estate executor and assigns suitable guardians for any minor children.
  • A trust (or multiple trusts). A trust may allow you to avoid probate, protect your family’s privacy, and control the distribution of trust assets after your passing. For example, you may lock some assets in a trust to generate income and provide for your surviving spouse during their lifetime but stipulate that these assets pass to your children from a previous marriage after your spouse’s death.
  • Beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, investment accounts, and life insurance policies.
  • Powers of attorney and/or health care directives that assign a personal representative to make crucial health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

Why Your Blended Family Needs a Skilled Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning for blended families calls for an experienced, detailed-oriented attorney. A skilled estate planning lawyer can help blended families:

  • Draft legal documents that make sure the right people inherit the right assets
  • Set up a trust to avoid probate or preserve property
  • Manage estate closure
  • Reduce friction between family members during estate distribution
  • Resolve inheritance disputes and/or probate litigation

Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel: Comprehensive Estate Planning Options for Blended Families in Central Virginia

If you’re part of a blended family, you need a thorough, detailed, and secure estate plan that provides for all your family members. At Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel, we can help preserve your legacy and attain peace of mind through comprehensive estate planning for blended families. Contact us to schedule a consultation with a Central Virginia estate planning attorney.