You already know that dying without a will is the safest way to ensure that you have absolutely no options whatsoever as to how your estate is to be divided. (And if you really didn’t know that, then read about what happens when you die without a will before reading on.)
However, depending on your family situation, drafting a will may not be a straightforward process—at least if you want it to be executed according to your wishes. One such family situation that complicates matters are blended families.
Blended families have complex rights and obligations, which adds a whole other level to estate planning. This is because a blended couple may have children from previous marriages or relationships, which may create conflict when it comes to family members expecting an inheritance.
If you are part of a blended family, the key to minimizing and hopefully avoiding conflict after your death is to be extremely specific in your will. Being part of a blended family affects how you decide to divide your assets upon your death, specifically when it comes to finding the right balance between protecting your own children and ensuring that your current spouse is sufficiently provided for. Leaving all of your assets to one or the other and assuming they will divide the inheritance amongst themselves after your death leaves the door open for conflict and hard feelings. Even if your spouse and your children have a good relationship with each other, death can bring out the worst in people.
The best way to explain this situation is through an example.
Miranda has two adult children from a first marriage. Her second husband Sam, was also previously married and has one adult son from that marriage. When she was writing her will, Miranda wanted to leave everything to her partner. Doing so would have meant that Sam would be under no obligation to share that inheritance with his two stepchildren. Miranda may trust that Sam would respect her wishes in regards to her children, but unless she specifically outlined who gets what in her will, he is not required to share the inheritance, even with her children. And, upon his death then, he would have the ability to leave everything to his son, leaving her children with nothing. As such, she had to very clearly spell out who got what to ensure that everyone would be provided for after her death.
For your blended family estate planning to be as uncomplicated as possible, it’s important to clearly communicate expectations beforehand and draft specific details and instructions in your will. Be open with everyone who will be affected by your death and make sure that their needs and desires are heard. Better to have the difficult conversations now than arguments and hard feelings after you’re gone.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. It is not intended to replace actual legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.