Estate Planning for Blended Families

Carroll Creek, Frederick, MDIf you or your spouse have children from a previous marriage, estate planning provides some added challenges.

In Maryland if you die without a will, stepchildren won’t inherit anything if you are survived by your spouse, your own children, siblings, parents, uncles and aunts, cousins, cousin’s children. In other words, your stepchild almost certainly won’t inherit anything from you without a will. (What Happens If I Die Without a Will?)

If you do have a will, stepchildren still aren’t considered your children unless you specify that they are.

The crucial part of estate planning for blended families is making sure that your children ultimately get your stuff. This may not be as simple as it seems. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Doug and Janice are married. They have one child, Sam, together. Doug has a son, Keith, from a previous marriage and Janice has a daughter, Lauren, from a previous marriage.

Example: Doug leaves everything to his wife, Janice. Doug trusts that Janice will split things equally among Sam, Keith and Lauren when she passes. At Doug’s death, Janice is free to leave everything to whomever she chooses. If Janice remarries and leaves everything to her new husband, it is unlikely that her new husband will leave anything for Doug’s son, Keith.

Leaving everything outright to a spouse in a blended family is rarely the best option. If you’re the first to die, it gives your spouse total control over the property. Even if you’re not concerned about your spouse misusing an outright gift, it’s possible that your children will never get the property you assumed they would get.

If you leave your assets to a trust, you, and not your spouse or somebody else, decides what happens to you property.

Example: Doug leaves his property in a trust. While Janice is alive, she receives income from the trust as well as as much as she needs for her health, maintenance, education and support. When Janice dies, the assets remaining in the trust are distributed among Doug’s children.

You can decide when, how much, and what purposes the trust assets are used for and they are put into the terms of the trust. Your attorney should understand your family situation and your goals to adequately draft the terms of a trust.

There are other options to make sure that your property ends up where you want it, like prenups, life estates or contracts to make wills. But a trust is usually the best option.

For more information about trusts, check out our Estate Planning Basics section on trusts or read this article about other uses on trusts.

If you have a blended family, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney in Maryland about what is best for you and your family. Contact us using the form on the right to talk to a lawyer today.

Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC is an estate planning law firm in Frederick, MD. If you are interested in our services, contact us today. This information is written for the context of Maryland estate planning but is not legal advice for anyone. For more information, read our disclaimer.


Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC
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