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What you need to update after joining a blended family

Marrying a second time is rarely an easy task. It may feel great to have a spouse by your side once again, but you may also feel more pressure in trying to ensure that you don’t end up with another divorce. You may need a while to adjust, especially if you or your new spouse had children before this marriage.

This new lifestyle also means you need to make some changes to your estate plan. Neglecting to update or even have a will or trust after a second marriage means there is a higher chance that your assets may end up in the wrong hands. While not every part of your initial estate plan needs modification, it would still be wise to examine all elements and consider how your new circumstances should apply to your estate plan as a whole.

Your inheritors

If you had a will in your previous marriage, you likely centered most of it around your family and close friends at the time. Now that you have a new family, you should consider naming your second spouse and stepchildren as beneficiaries as soon as you can. If you don’t have a will or don’t update it before your death, then your former spouse may receive a significant portion of your assets.

Earlier this year, a stepdaughter in Cambridge suffered the consequences of blended family members not having a will in place. After her mother and stepfather died, the state selected her stepfather’s nieces and nephews to inherit a house her parents had for nearly 40 years because they were his blood relatives. Even though the stepfather heavily implied that he wanted the stepdaughter to have it, not taking the time to develop a proper estate plan has put the house in jeopardy.

You need to be very specific when naming your inheritors and their relation to you. Otherwise your family members could contest your will over what you actually meant.

Your executor

Choosing your executor for the marriage can be especially daunting since you have several more candidates now. Unfortunately, some of these choices could prove to be controversial. If you pick your child from your former spouse as the sole executor, then they could face bias accusations from your new family, and vice-versa.

Depending on your exact situation, you have several options to ensure the fair and reliable execution of your estate plan. You could assign a member from each side of your family to serve as co-executors as long as you can depend on them to work together. If you believe there will be conflicts within your family, consider assigning a lifelong friend as an executor who serves your primary interests instead of siding with either of your families.

New challenges can arise when you begin a new family, so this is a matter you need to look into as soon as you can. Consider contacting an estate planning attorney in case you don’t have a will or you need further guidance on asset distribution.

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What you need to update after joining a blended family | Center For Elder Law & Estate Planning