"Blended families" is a term that has come into vogue over the past couple decades. As divorce and remarriage has become more frequent and more socially acceptable, the number of subsequent marriages that involve children from earlier partners has risen as well. While some of these families have "Brady Bunch" dynamics, with minor children from both partners, many include children from one or the other of the couple that are adults. This is becoming even more common with the increase of so-called "grey divorces." Not surprisingly, in an estate planning context, dealing with a blended family requires different considerations than a more traditional one.
For example, in a family in which the children are all young when the family comes together, and the kids are all thought of as "ours" by the couple, a traditional estate plan in which the children are provided for equally may be called for. However, if the offspring of one partner are older, say adults, it may not seem fair to treat them in the same way one treats his or her own children. In a case like this, a testator may want to leave his or her property to the newer spouse to distribute as he or she sees fit.
Further, disposing of the family home may be more complicated in a blended family situation. If it is the house the kids grew up in, they may have a larger emotional stake in it than a new spouse. Of course, one also generally does not want one's spouse thrown onto the street. It is also important to remember that state laws, like Florida's, may give the spouse the ability to keep a "homestead" property, or choose an "elective share" of the estate regardless of the way a will reads.
Lastly, it may be cheaper in these situations, in the long run, to value family member satisfaction over short-term tax savings. While taxes may be lower if one leaves the entire estate to a spouse, if litigation should occur because the children are unhappy, the financial and emotional cost could be substantial.
In any event, these situations can become quite complex. It is a good idea that, when estate planning, one consider consulting professionals, whether they be legal, financial or emotional. The aid of a legal professional in estate planning may save a blended family money and heartache by allowing an individual to pass his or her estate according to his or her wishes.
Source: The Street, "6 Things to Consider When Estate planning for Your Second Family," Kathryn Tuggle, Aug. 7, 2014