Estate plans and wills come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are relatively straightforward because there was one spouse and one child, while others will be more complicated because there was more than one marriage with several children and stepchildren involved. This is to say nothing of the even larger number of grandchildren who may also be in the picture.
When the latter scenario is the case, a simple will does not work. With such a large and mixed family, there is a good chance that not everyone will get along, or perhaps the third and final wife wants nothing to do with the wives and children from previous marriages.
6 tips to make it easier
Navigating family dynamics can be complicated, and relationships will shift over the years. Thoughtful estate planning recognizes this and can provide strategies for addressing issues:
Do not leave everything to the last spouse: Leaving everything to a spouse happens a lot, but sometimes their own will leave everything to their biological children, thus effectively cutting the rest of your children out.
Create a trust for final spouse: Trusts can be created to do just about anything, so a solution to the above issue is to create a trust that a spouse has access to, which can then be dispersed however you see fit once they pass away.
Pick a knowledgeable and experienced trustee: The tendency to pick a spouse or child can be a mistake because they may not have the people skills, business acumen or interest in overseeing the estate.
Have a contingency plan if a spouse remarries: A trust or will can have contingency plans if this comes to pass.
Pass some assets to children upon your death: It is often wise to do this rather than having assets go through probate twice, or if the spouse is younger and potentially could live for a substantial period after your passing.
Determine who will handle healthcare decisions: It’s an unfortunate truth that many of the elderly are unable to make their own decisions in their final years, so it is best to pick someone to have a durable power of attorney and to provide some healthcare directives to guide them.
Legal guidance is usually necessary
An experienced estate law attorney can provide valuable insight into the planning of a will and trust if the family is a blended one. They can also help families with managing the trust or handling the details and paperwork that are involved with probate or other disputes that may arise.