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What is Blended Family Estate Planning?

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Blended families face unique estate planning challenges. If you or your partner have one or more children from a previous marriage or relationship, it is critical to work with a Naples estate planning attorney who regularly works with blended families.

What Documents Should Be In a Blended Family Estate Plan?

There are certain documents blended families should consider including in their estate plan, including premarital agreements, post-marital agreements, and shared property agreements.

• Premarital Agreements

Premarital agreements, often referred to as prenuptial agreements, are contracts entered into by two people who are going to get married. The document becomes effective upon their marriage. Many people assume that premarital agreements are only used to plan for divorce, but they also play an important role in estate planning. You can enter the marriage knowing that your wishes will be protected after your death.

Premarital agreements can be adapted to each family’s unique situation, but there are a few provisions that couples creating a blended family may want to consider, including:

o Waiving Inheritance Rights. If you are worried about protecting the inheritance of your children from a previous relationship, you can include a provision waiving a spouse’s inheritance rights under Florida law. In Florida, a surviving spouse is entitled to claim a 30% share of your estate, regardless of what is written in your will or trust. Additionally, a surviving spouse has homestead rights. They are allowed to continue living in the homestead (“primary residence”) for the rest of their life. The surviving spouse can also decide to sell the homestead property within six months of their partner’s death and collect half of the proceeds.

o Requiring Life Insurance. You can require a spouse to maintain a life insurance policy and dictate who will be named as the policy’s beneficiaries.

o Requiring the Creation of a Trust. You can include a provision that requires a spouse to make a trust that guarantees lifetime income to the surviving spouse while preserving the trust property for the children from the previous relationship.

• Post-marital Agreements

Post-marital agreements function in the same way as premarital agreement, but it is entered into during the marriage. It is important to know that if you do not have a prenuptial agreement, these issues can be negotiated and addressed at any point during the marriage. Sometimes an event arises during the marriage that makes an agreement even more necessary, such as a spouse starting a successful business or receiving an inheritance.

• Shared Property Agreements

It is not uncommon for the partners creating a blended family to decide that they do not want to get married. Instead, many couples choose to cohabitate and build their life together without a formal marriage. If you fall into this category, you may want to consider adding a shared property agreement to your estate plan. In a shared property agreement, you can define each partner’s rights to jointly purchase property. It can also address what will happen to any income earned off the jointly purchased property.

What are the Dangers of Not Engaging in Blended Family Estate Planning?

If you don’t create a blended family estate plan, your property will likely be inherited in a way you do not intend. Your biological children from your first marriage could receive much less than you would have wanted. On the other hand, your surviving spouse could be left in a vulnerable position. Furthermore, your stepchildren would likely end up disinherited, which is an outcome you may have wanted to avoid.

Estate planning after a second marriage is also critical to reduce the likelihood of your estate plan being contested. In blended families, there is the potential for conflict between the surviving spouse and children from outside the marriage, if one party feels like they were slighted. With litigation costs, your family could end up squandering your inheritance if a family member does challenge the estate plan. Creating a comprehensive blended family estate plan and making your wishes known before you pass away goes a long way in promoting family harmony.

Call A Naples Estate Planning Lawyer

If you have questions about blended family estate planning, you should contact Nici Law Firm. James R. Nici is an experienced Naples attorney with over 25 years of experience. He has experience with these issues and can create an estate plan that fits your needs. Contact our office today at (239) 449-6150 or use our web form to set up a free consultation.

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