Merging Families

Merging familiesA growing number of married couples face an additional obstacle of blending their two families, very often including children from prior relationships. These “blended” families face a number of issues that are different from those facing other families.

A number of issues can make planning for a blended family even more complicated, including:

  • Possibility of divorce (70% of second marriages end in divorce)
  • Children from prior relationships
  • Differences in age between spouses
  • Differences in assets between spouses
  • State law (Example, community property)

Any plan for a blended family needs to address a number of unique circumstances

  • Asset distribution at death of first spouse
  • Surviving spouse’s control over couple’s assets
  • Whether to treat couple’s separate children equally, or divide estate into equal or unequal portions

Utilizing a traditional joint trust or reciprocal wills for a blended marriage can lead to unintended consequences and family strife. For example, children of the older spouse may not want to wait for their inheritance from their father until their step-mother’s passing. After the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse can change their will so all of the couple’s asset go to the surviving spouse’s children alone.