Try to be fair but be flexible. It is not always easy to be as equitable as you would like in your estate plans, and often a person can feel they have been treated unfairly. In a blended family, these problems can be even worse. Remember that fair is not always equal, and equal is not always fair. When dividing your assets, you will need to make some decisions after carefully evaluating the needs of all your family members. There is no guarantee that all of your family will be satisfied with your determinations, but you’ll have done your best.
Be clear in your communications. It’s best to have no surprises in estate planning, and that’s especially true in a blended family. Take the time to involve other family members and make your wishes and goals known. Just give them an overall outline.
Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a Revocable Living Trust. Everyone’s circumstances are unique, but many blended families discover that a simple Will isn’t enough estate planning. Therefore, you may want to create a Revocable Living Trust. This can provide you with more control than a Will when it comes to carrying out your wishes. Moreover, because you’ve transferred your assets to the Trust, you’re no longer technically the owner of these assets. As such, the probate court isn’t involved, and your estate can likely avoid the time-consuming, expensive, and public process of probate.
Find the right trustee. If you do create a Living Trust, you also must designate a trustee. That’s a person who will manage the Trust assets. Married couples frequently serve as co-trustees, but this can cause tensions and disagreements. As another option, you can hire a professional trustee. This may be a person or an entity with the time, experience, and neutrality to make appropriate decisions and who can bring new ideas to the process.
Estate planning can be complex with a blended family, so read up on these issues and speak to an experienced estate planning attorney.
Reference: Williamson Herald (Franklin, TN) (Feb. 18, 2021) “Blended families can avoid estate planning challenges”