Most people tend to hire an attorney, craft a solid estate plan, and then forget about it. But important life events tend to change your situation, and it’s a good idea to update your estate plan regularly so that you don’t pass away with an estate plan that is obsolete or that no longer reflects your desires for the disposal of your assets. One of these events that should inspire you to revisit your estate plan is getting remarried and forming a new, blended family with new stepchild-stepparent relationships.
What can happen if I don’t update my estate plan?
Let’s say that both you and your new spouse created your wills years ago, before getting married to each other. Your wills contain a clause that leaves all of your possessions “to all of my children equally” in the event that you die unmarried, or something of that nature.
Then, you pass away before your new spouse. Your possessions would pass to your spouse. If they then die, all of your combined possessions would go to their biological children, not to yours. This is because the term “my children” in their will only applies to their biological children, not to stepchildren – unless they legally adopted your biological children as their own.
Alternately, after you pass away your spouse could remarry. In that event, your possessions would get further diluted as they become the marital property of your spouse and their new spouse – and any children they bring to the marriage.
Situations like these can give rise to bad feelings, conflict and even litigation between your children – who feel cheated out of their inheritance – and your stepchildren. Updating your estate plan after your new marriage can help to prevent your new family from tearing itself apart after you are gone.
How do I prevent those problems?
When you are updating your will, trusts, advance directives and any other estate planning documents that you have, phrases that refer to “all my children” won’t be sufficient. Make sure to name each of your stepchildren specifically by name – and make sure that your new spouse does the same for your biological children.
In addition, there are many other methods you can use to make sure that your assets make it to your biological children. There are several different kinds of trusts that you can use to make sure that your children will not be left with nothing if your spouse writes them out of their will after you die.
Blended families come with all sorts of new joy and new challenges. An updated estate plan can help to prevent unnecessary conflict after you are no longer with them.