Planning for Blended Families

Serving Families throughout Laurel, Maryland and the Surrounding Areas

Times have changed. In the new millennium, whether due to the death of a spouse or through divorce, blended families now outnumber traditional nuclear families. And the number is likely to grow, based on current statistics and trends.

Many blended families face unique social, psychological and economic challenges. As a result, over 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations and support groups dedicated to helping blended families with these challenges.

If you already have an estate plan created when you were “previously” married, then we can help bring it up-to-code to reflect your new wedding vows. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the critical estate planning challenges confronting blended families. These challenges include disinheriting your ex-spouse and protecting your own children. They are important topics that can often get glossed over because they require difficult conversations. Whose child will be in charge when both spouses die, and how assets will be divided are questions that often require consideration and compromise.

Without proper legal planning, your ex-spouse (as surviving parent/guardian) would likely be appointed by the probate court to manage the inheritance you leave to your minor children. To make matters worse, what if your children later predecease your ex-spouse, and are single and childless at that time? Who would inherit your assets then? That is right … your ex-spouse, as the next-of-kin of your children.

Chances are you made a few solemn promises to your new spouse on your wedding day. Among them were promises to be there through thick and thin, personally and financially. In the absence of a premarital agreement to maintain separate assets, most spouses in blended families tend to blend their wealth. For example, they title their respective assets in the names of both spouses and also designate one another as the primary beneficiary of their respective retirement plans and life insurance policies.

Warning: If you predecease your new spouse, then you may forever disinherit your own children from your share of such blended wealth! Thereafter, upon the death of your new spouse, your assets may be inherited by your stepchildren, or even by your new spouse›s next spouse and their children. Yes, things can get complicated – and fast!

Regardless of whether children are reared in a traditional nuclear family or in a blended family, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. For starters, wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered in very short order. Dollars earned just spend differently than dollars inherited. In addition to good old-fashioned squandering, an inheritance can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies.

Fortunately, with proper (and very careful) estate planning, you can both honor your vows to your new spouse and provide an inheritance that is protected for and even from your own children.

Testimonials

Steve Z.

Erik and Wendy were patient and thorough. Great follow up. Made sure that I considered all aspects of estate planning and provided me with peace of mine for my family when I am gone.

Read More →

Michael C.

Probate Court “It went better than expected during a year of dealing with paperwork and going to the Courthouse several times. But in the end it worked out better than I could of hoped for. Certainly Recommend to anyone who needs a Lawyer to stop by, their right beside the Post Office on Main Street in Laurel.”

Read More →

Michael M.

Fantastic!! I came very confused after my wife‘s death and in a half hour with Tom I felt like I knew what I needed to do and they have been with me every step of the way. Very pleasant, knowledge and a great help in navigating areas with which I have no experience. Thank you very much!

Read More →

Keith B.

Tom is an excellent attorney who really knows his business. He won’t guide you wrong. Our kids grew up together & I’ve known him for decades. I know him form more than just his professional work. He is a very good man and someone you can absolutely trust

Read More →

Lynn D. C.

We had the Downs Law Firm set up a trust for us years ago and recently made an appointment to review the information and make some changes. Tom was very helpful in expediting the necessary changes. The office staff was very friendly. We have been very satisfied with the Downs Law Firm. We also used Tom’s services to have a will and other necessary documents drawn up for my Dad. We would recommend the Downs Law Firm to others.

Read More →

Cynthia F.

Tom Downs has always provided our family with expert and professional estate planning advice and documents. We highly recommended him to anyone living in the State of Maryland to seek out his advice and services for their estate planning needs.

Read More →