Matthew S. Payne is a Chicago-based attorney with a 20-year record of success in civil litigation, real estate law and estate planning.

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How to handle estate planning when you have a blended family

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2021 | Estate Planning

Blended families are more common than ever, with stepchildren and half-siblings joining into a new household after a divorce. If you are planning your estate in Illinois, the thought of incorporating your entire blended family may seem overwhelming. Learning about the process and the choices available to you will help you to get your assets, finances, and future plans in order for all those family members.

Is estate planning different for blended families?

Believe it or not, estate planning for a blended family is very similar to planning for a traditional one. With a blended family, however, there are simply more individuals to take into account. Considering the unique interests and needs of each heir is where the difficulty lies. Fortunately, there are approaches to suit different circumstances.

Various estate planning tools are available

Planning your estate as a blended family does not have to be difficult, especially once you become familiar with the range of options at your disposal. One popular choice is the traditional family trust. Spouses place their assets into a combined trust, and the surviving parent can decide how to distribute them to all the children involved.

A marital trust is somewhat different. It allows assets to pass to the surviving spouse while earmarking the remainder for children after that spouse’s death.

If you opt for outright ownership, all assets will flow to the surviving spouse without specific provisions for the children. Obviously, this requires mutual assurance between the marital partners that the other will care properly for the children.

Perhaps you’d prefer to make immediate bequests. This alternative does not involve trusts at all. You would specifically leave the assets you wish to each child in your will. If you have concerns that a child might not receive what you want them to have, arranging for them to inherit it directly might be your wisest choice.

These issues can be complicated, and you’ll want to make plans that will hold up in probate court. Consequently, it would be wise to consult with a law firm familiar with estate planning. Regardless of the size or complexity of your blended family, suitable provisions can be made.