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Estate planning for blended families

Roughly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, so the odds are reasonable that even the most financially diligent individual in Florida may have to split things up among a blended family. When people from two different families are suddenly part of the picture, estate planning becomes more complex if important steps are taken.

With complicated estate planning of this nature, it's advised that estate plans be reviewed and updated. Failing to make changes to wills, trusts and other documents could present unforeseen obstacles for children from previous marriages. But certain changes could be problematic. For example, if a new spouse is named the sole beneficiary on life insurance policies, retirement accounts and similar documents, he or she will not be legally obligated to share assets with children from other marriages.

Simply opting to have a will can also present legal challenges for someone wishing to preserve their biological children's ability to inherit. If a new will is drafted that leaves everything to the new spouse, the spouse does not have to divvy up assets among these children. Trusts, however, can be more practical for a remarried spouse. One option is an AB trust, which allocates certain assets to a new spouse during their lifetime and passes other assets along to children after death. What's called an ABC trust allows assets to be allocated to different trusts with unique rules and stipulations pertaining to asset allocations.

Choosing a trustee is an equally important task. If it's suspected that there could be tension between a new spouse and children from other marriages, an estate planning lawyer may recommend that a remarried spouse select someone as a trustee who would be capable or mediating differences. Another option an attorney may suggest is to set up an estate plan that automatically leaves certain assets to biological children upon death.

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