At a recent AAEPA event the topic of planning for blended families was discussed. I realized that planning for the American family is not as straight forward as it used to be. Oftentimes assumptions are made as to how a family will plan and need to be corrected.
When I sit down with new clients for the first time, I am just as eager as they are to ask questions. The questions cannot just stop at “how long have you been married” and “how many kids do you have?” Now I must ask, is this your only marriage? Do you have children from the previous marriage? Do you have children together? Have you adopted your spouse’s child? Do you keep your assets together or separate? And the list goes on.
Also, in some instances the spouse without the children will include the other spouse’s children as their own. I have been told by a client when addressing the child as “her son” that “he’s our son”. The age of the child at the time of the remarriage can often determine whether the new spouse feels that child is his. If a couple has been married before and don’t have any children together, I will recommend two separate trusts; one for the husband and one for the wife. This will allow for the assets to be titled separately and for separate distributions while still qualifying for any special tax planning for a married couple. However, a couple may tell me that they don’t want separate distributions and what’s mine is hers and what’s hers is mine. Then I will prepare a Joint plan.
Likewise, if a couple has been together twenty years, after previously being married and have no children at all and still want their assets to be kept separate. This may be because each accumulated their own wealth prior to this marriage and feel it should not be commingled. I no longer jump to conclusions or have a preconceived notion about how a client will plan because each family is different. I always say, each person has a story to tell and more importantly a need to tell someone who will listen.
A qualified estate planning attorney will be able to help you develop the proper estate plan to fit your needs.
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