Modern American families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and configurations. This creates unique circumstances when creating wills and trusts and putting long-term care plans in place.

There is always the potential for conflict when it comes to estate planning in general, but the added element of a blended family can compound problems. That is why blended families need to discuss their options with an experienced estate planning attorney who understands the complexities.

To get prepared for a conversation with your estate planning attorney, blended family members should consider the following:

  1. What role will your new spouse play in your estate? What role will your children play? Those who are married later in life may choose to leave their entire estate to their biological children, while the spouse does the same. In other situations, both spouses may choose to leave their assets to the surviving spouse or to do a combination of both. Of course, many step-parents choose to consider their non-biological children in the estate planning process as well.
  2. It may seem unlikely now, but there is potential for a spouse who receives your assets to disinherit your biological children. To avoid this, precise instructions regarding your beneficiaries and their inheritance should be clearly and legally outlined in your will.
  3. Use your will to make your wishes known when it comes to the inheritance of specific assets. Your estate planning attorney can help you to identify what these are, as it is very easy to overlook a particular asset, not realizing it holds either monetary or sentimental value.
  4. To remove concerns regarding what a spouse, child, or step-child might do should you be unable to oversee your own finances, work with your estate planning attorney to set up a living trust, powers of attorney, and other legal documentation before they become necessary.
  5. Review any retirement accounts, mutual funds, insurance policies, etc. to ensure they are kept up to date as your familial status changes. For example, you may need to remove a former spouse in favor of your current one, add step-children as beneficiaries, or amend your beneficiaries with the birth of a new child.

Probably the most important aspect of making these choices is to ensure they truly reflect your preferences and wishes, as well as applicable California laws. Because there are a number of special considerations in these types of situations, be sure to choose an estate planning attorney here in Santa Barbara who has significant experience working with blended families.

At Santa Barbara Estate Planning and Elder Law, we are happy to work with you and your extended family to ensure that you have the right plans in place should the unthinkable happen. Just call our Santa Barbara office at 805-946-1550 and ask to schedule a consultation.

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