Estate planning can be complex for even a simple family profile. When you have a family with his children, her children, and their children, estate planning can become very complex. We refer to these types of families as "blended families".
We see many types of blended families. In some cases mature individuals marry at a time when they both have adult children. Often each spouse's children hardly know the other children and sometimes know them by name only. In other cases the parties marry at a time when one or both of them have very young children. We sometimes see these couples after the children have grown. It is not uncommon in these situations for both spouses to look at both their children as their own. The point is, blended families come in an infinite variety of mixes.
We often see substantial conflict in blended families after the death of one of the parents. This is particularly true where the parents have failed to establish a carefully thought out estate plan. We have been involved in many of these situations that could have been avoided with a well designed estate plan.
This raises the point that estate planning is not a one time effort. Rather, estate planning is an ongoing process as a person or a couple proceed through life. When we purchase a home and the closing agent asks "in whose name or names do you want to take title" we are faced with an estate planning issue. Do we take title as joint tenants so that the survivor automatically inherits the home? Do we take title in the name of our trust? Do we put our spouses or our children's names on our financial accounts? Who do we name as beneficiary in our insurance or annuity policies? These are all estate planning questions.
While it is very important that the answers to these and similar questions be considered in advance and in light of our ongoing estate planning process, it is even more critical in the case of blended families..