If two adult children in a blended family receive a lot more financial help from their parent and stepparents than other children, there may be expectations that the parent’s estate plan will be structured to address any unequal distributions. This unique circumstance requires a unique solution, as explained in the article “Estate Planning: A Trust Can Be Used to Protect Blended Families” from The Daily Sentinel. Blended families in which adult children and stepchildren have grandchildren also require unique estate planning.
Blended families face the question of what happens if one parent dies and the surviving step parent remarries. If the deceased spouse’s estate was given to the surviving step parent, will those assets be used to benefit the deceased spouse’s children, or will the new spouse and their children be the sole beneficiaries?
In a perfect world, all children would be treated equally, and assets would flow to the right heirs. However, that does not always happen. There are many cases where the best of intentions is clear to all, but the death of the first spouse in a blended marriage change everything.
Other events occur that change how the deceased’s estate is distributed. If the surviving step-spouse suffers from Alzheimer’s or experiences another serious disease, their judgement may become impaired.
All of these are risks that can be avoided, if proper estate planning is done by both parents while they are still well and living. Chief among these is a trust, a simple will does not provide the level of control of assets needed in this situation. Do not leave this to chance—there is no way to know how things will work out.
A trust can be created, so the spouse will have access to assets while they are living. When they pass, the remainder of the trust can be distributed to the children.
If a family that has helped out two children more than others, as mentioned above, the relationships between the siblings that took time to establish need to be addressed, while the parents are still living. This can be done with a gifting strategy, where children who felt their needs were being overlooked may receive gifts of any size that might be appropriate, to stem any feelings of resentment.
That is not to say that parents need to use their estate to satisfy their children’s expectations. However, in the case of the family above, it is a reasonable solution for that particular family and their dynamics.
A good estate plan addresses the parent’s needs and takes the children’s needs into consideration. Every parent needs to address their children’s unique needs and be able to distinguish their needs from wants. A gifting strategy, trusts and other estate planning tools can be explored in a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney, who creates estate plans specific to the unique needs of each family.
Reference: The Daily Sentinel (Dec. 16, 2020) “Estate Planning: A Trust Can Be Used to Protect Blended Families”
Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys