Blended families and step-families are very common these days.
You might ask, what is the difference?
A blended family is a family consisting of two or more children where at least one child is the natural child of both parents, and at least one child is the step-child of one parent and the natural child of the other.
A step-family is a family that consists of at least one child who is the step-child of one parent and the natural child of the other, but no child who is the natural child of both parents.
Careful consideration must be given when preparing your will in either of these circumstances about potential competing interests for your estate by the surviving spouse, your natural child and your step-child.
Anne and Bill each have a child from a previous marriage and have a child of their own. Anne wants to ensure that her estate or a significant part of her estate passes to her natural children, rather than all going to Bill.
Why? Bill could later re-partner and on his death, the whole of his estate including that portion given to him by Anne could end up in the hands of his new partner. Anne’s natural children could easily miss out.
Anne should make a will ensuring that at least a portion of her estate is held in trust for her children or is given to her adult children.
It is also possible for Anne and Bill to sign mutual wills and contract not to change them. We generally do not recommend this strategy. Wills made subject to contract often create disputes or fail to provide the desired result due to changing circumstances.
A Will incorporating Testamentary Trusts is recommended to increase the protection for Anne’s natural children.
Testamentary Trusts do allow for more flexible arrangements.
For example, Testamentary Trusts used in a blended family context can allow provision for the will maker’s children to be the only specified or primary beneficiaries and the surviving spouse can be named as a general beneficiary. The spouse could therefore receive the income generated from the trust preserving the capital sum for their natural children.
It is also possible to ensure that only the natural children of the will maker receives the estate to the exclusion of all other potential beneficiaries.
If you are a member of a blended or step-family and would like to discuss your options to protect your estate and provide for your children, contact Andrew Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not legal advice.