Creating an estate plan can be a daunting task for anyone, regardless of age, assets, or marital status. However, if you’re creating an estate plan for a blended family, you might be feeling even more overwhelmed. Trying to ensure that everyone in the family is treated fairly without hurting any feelings can be tricky, and you may feel like conflict is inevitable.

A Relational Estate Plan® can make all the difference. By focusing on the relational aspects of your estate plan, you ensure that everyone in the family feels seen, heard, and understood. This can even help resolve concerns that may arise as you work on your plan by sharing your heart with your family – blended or not.

Knowing What’s Important

Navigating an estate plan may feel difficult enough without incorporating a second marriage, but don’t let that stop you from getting your estate in order. Creating a Relational Estate Plan® will give you and your family a sense of peace and calm throughout an otherwise tumultuous time in your life. You can start with these simple steps:

Update Your Will

Updating your Will may seem like the obvious route to take when you remarry, but many people forget this crucial first step. When you create a Relational Estate Plan®, you must ensure that your estate plan stays updated with your changing life, family, and circumstances. While you may take comfort in the fact that you have a Will, not updating that Will to distribute your assets properly to those who are now in your life may cause difficulties with your estate administration down the line.

After you remarry, you should promptly update your Will and other estate planning documents. Documents like a Power of Attorney or an Advance Medical Directive are equally as important to update. Not doing so could cause conflict among your family, which is the last thing you want to happen in a time of crisis or grief. Taking the initiative soon after you remarry to create a Relational Estate Plan® leaves nothing up for debate, allowing your family to come together in a stressful time instead of pushing each other apart.

Don’t Forget to Change Your Beneficiaries

A Relational Estate Plan® is a fantastic thing to have. Still, if you don’t update the beneficiaries on your accounts after you remarry, all of the hard work that you’ve put into creating a fair and equitable estate plan may be for naught.

When you name someone as a beneficiary on your account, this allows whoever you’ve designated to receive the assets from your account outright without needing to worry about the probate process. Remember to change your beneficiaries on your accounts, especially if you’re changing your beneficiary from a former spouse to your current spouse. If you don’t, it may cause a huge headache and a lot of hurt feelings when it comes time to handle your estate. Make changing your beneficiaries a priority in your Relational Estate Plan®!

[Related Reading: What Is a Beneficiary Designation, And Should You Use One?]

Think About Complexities in a Blended Family

While many blended families work together well, there are frequently tensions in a blended family that do not exist in a more traditional one. For example, when one spouse dies, there is an issue of who gets their assets: the surviving spouse or their children. The last thing most people want is a fight between their spouse and children after their death, but for many people, this is the reality.

We strongly encourage anyone with a blended family to take a hard and honest look at their relationships and think about what could happen if they were to become disabled or deceased. Who would you want to be in charge of your care should you become disabled? Does your family understand your wishes for your estate after death?

This is where a Relational Estate Plan® can make all the difference. Creating a Relational Estate Plan® allows you the freedom to go into more detail about the decisions that you make for your estate planning. Documents like an Ethical Will allow you to lay out your goals and your hopes for your estate planning, which may be able to ease some of the tension that many blended families face. When you’re looking into estate planning, consider sitting down with your family and talking to them about what your plans out. By laying out your plan before you pass, you may be able to mitigate some of the concerns – and hurt feelings – that may arise after you’re gone.

[Related Reading: What Are the Inheritance Rights of Stepchildren?]

When in Doubt, Consult an Attorney

If you’re concerned about how to manage your estate plan after getting remarried, don’t hesitate to consult an attorney. An experienced Estate Planning attorney in your state will be able to assist you as you figure out the best course of action for you and your family and may even be able to open your mind to new possibilities that you haven’t yet considered.

If you or a loved one is interested in creating a Relational Estate Plan®, our team would love to come alongside your family to create an estate plan that represents you, your family, and your values. Contact us today for more information about Relational Estate Planning® and how our firm can help. We would love to talk with you!

 

Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate & Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.

 

Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.