The Brady Bunch was a popular sitcom that aired from 1969 to 1974. The series revolved around a large blended family with six children. It is widely recognized as an American cultural icon. One reason commonly given for the popularity of the Brady Bunch is that it gave traditional nuclear families a lighthearted glimpse into the life of a blended family. Times have changed in the new millennium, blended families now outnumber traditional nuclear families. And the number is likely to grow, based on current statistics and trends.
Unlike the 30 minute sitcom, real life is not always so lighthearted for blended families, whether due to widowhood or divorce. Many face unique social, psychological and economic challenges.
More than 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations and support groups dedicated to helping blended families with these challenges. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the critical life & estate planning challenges confronting blended families. These challenges include disinheriting the ex-spouse, providing for the new spouse, and providing for your own children, and protecting their inheritance.
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 children. To make matters worse, what if your children later predecease your ex-spouse, failed to do their own estate plan, and are single and childless at that time? Who would inherit your assets then? That's right...your ex-spouse, as next-of-kin of your children.
Your New Spouse
Most spouses in blended families tend to blend their wealth.
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 your new spouse's next spouse and their children.
Your Own Children
Whether children are reared in a traditional nuclear family or in a blended family, great care should be taken to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. Wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered in very short order, or can quickly vanish through a divorce, lawsuits or bankruptcies.
Our firm has a vast toolbox with solutions that will protect your children from a prior marriage, should you predecease your new spouse. It just requires setting up the right kind of trust.
This has been a very cursory examination of a very complex subject. Give us a call at our Calabasas or Beverly Hills office. Or send a message (see our contact box in the left column). We offer a free initial consultation (if you mention this blog post) to discuss legal strategies to overcome blended family challenges. We'll help make sure you have the plan you need to protect the people you love.