Have you moved on since your divorce and met someone new? If you have entered into a subsequent marriage, have you updated or had a whole new estate plan drafted? A new relationship after divorce is certainly reason to celebrate. But avoiding difficult conversations about end of life planning is a recipe for disaster in a blended family.
Complex financial and emotional issues
You and your new partner bring separate baggage into the new relationship, there is no way around it. You were each awarded different assets in the property settlement when the marriage ended, and likely have different ideas and values about passing wealth along to the next generation.
Furthermore, there are competing interests between your children and new spouse and between the stepchildren. This is a highly charged emotional reality in stepfamilies when it comes to estate planning. It is best tackled with open communication and concrete legal documents that set forth the rights and responsibilities of the parent or stepparent and child. This can quickly escalate if you and your new spouse have another child of your own. Older children may feel they are being treated unfairly, and you should discuss and attempt to resolve those feelings with them.
Equal vs. equitable
One of the more difficult areas that stepfamilies wrestle with is the concept of equal versus equitable distribution. Will you divide assets evenly between all of the children? Or will you distribute assets based on each child’s age, need, or ability to access resources from their other biological parent? How will you explain this to your children? It is important to have a game plan in place for discussion and to ensure your children feel they are being heard. Explain the reasons why you and your spouse made these decisions to the kids.
Open discussion is essential
The important thing is that you discuss the wishes that you have for your children with your spouse and your children, when they are old enough. If some children are substantially older than others, what role should that play in the inheritance award? What about minor children who would require more financial resources if you were to pass away unexpectedly? These are complicated issues, and arguments are inevitable. The key is to discuss and resolve these emotions in an open way with your spouse.
Put it in writing
Once you have come to mutual agreement, you need to have your intentions memorialized in the documents. In addition to having a will or trust drafted, you may want to consider executing a post-nuptial agreement, in the event you married without a prenup.
By discussing these issues and resolving them while everyone is alive, you are being proactive in preserving family harmony and minimizing the risk of a long legal battle in the event you or your spouse were to pass away unexpectedly.