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Starting the journey of marriage, or remarrying after a divorce, is a complex endeavor filled with emotions: love, happiness, occasional frustration, and the need for compromise. It is the start of a new life together with your spouse.

Unfortunately, in cases where couples bring children from previous relationships into the union, the potential for conflicting objectives and priorities often paves the way for future marital challenges. Properly making arrangements with estate planning, and securing the future of your and your spouse’s children, becomes complex and challenging.

Experienced estate planning attorneys from Perna & Abracht, LLC specializes in helping families protect and manage their assets for future generations and offers guidance for dealing with the complexities of administering an estate.

Effective estate planning safeguards assets for re-married couples and their children. Failing to do so can risk lost inheritances, asset disputes with former spouses, and childcare issues. Updating insurance policies is crucial to ensure that the right beneficiaries benefit from the blended family. Likewise, revising investment account beneficiaries on retirement funds is essential to prevent unintended payouts to former spouses.

Before the Wedding

Prenuptial Agreements – Before saying “I do,” remember you are not just starting a love relationship, but also a contract where you have certain financial commitments that need to be fulfilled. Particularly when children are involved, a prenuptial agreement becomes a must. In case of a dispute, this agreement can protect your own biological children’s interests should you die or get divorced. 

Irrevocable Trusts – This could be an excellent option to hold your assets for your children, and to protect them from divorces and creditors. Forming and funding this trust before your wedding is a great strategy to keep these assets from becoming entangled in your future marriage.

If You Do Nothing

Intestacy, which refers to the absences of a will, trust, or other lifetime arrangement, will result in the decedent’s assets passing according to the laws of the state, which may or may not be what the decedent wanted. In such a case, there are no protective trusts, and your spouse or children may receive less than you intend. A Will on the other hand, allows you to craft a meticulous plan that reflects your true wishes. 

After the Wedding

Re-married couples should also consider keeping their assets separate. Even though they may share general expenses like mortgages and car payments, their hard-earned money could be at risk should a former spouse make a claim. In addition, debts incurred from the first marriage could come into play and become a liability even if the current spouse had no part in it. Any separate property brought into a second marriage by each spouse could also be at risk. Having paperwork such as ownership documents, registrations, and titles in order is also recommended.

Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Directive: Prevent conflicts between your new spouse and children by clearly specifying who holds the authority to make medical and/or financial decisions for you in case of incapacity. Your Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney not only dictate who can visit you during illness, but also designate your healthcare decision⎯ maker.  Your business Power of Attorney should clearly identify the person who is to make financial decisions on your behalf.

Wills And Contracts: The spouses can bind each other through a contract to follow and honor the Will put in place by you. For example, such a contract and/or Will may provide that, the first spouse has a right to live in the family home, which then passes to the second spouse’s children. Pennsylvania wills lawyers assist individuals in drafting and managing their wills so as to ensure their wishes are legally documented and carried-out effectively. 

If you have any questions about Estate Planning for Blended Families or any other estate planning topics, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced estate planning lawyers. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.