No two families are alike, which is why it's a good thing that there are so many customizable options available when it comes to estate planning.
Blended families have some of the most complex estate planning needs. Most estate planning lawyers recommend using a trust to make sure that new spouses and children from previous relationships are provided for.
For example, let's say a Texas man with two daughters from a previous marriage enters a second marriage to a woman with two sons. The Texas man and his wife then create wills stating that their property will go to the surviving spouse and then to their children.
However, if the man dies before his wife, his wife could potentially change her will to give all of the assets to her sons, thereby disinheriting the man's daughters. A trust can prevent this from happening by providing for the spouse so long as she lives and then giving the remaining assets to the daughters.
Families with members who have special needs also have unique interests when it comes to estate planning. These families will likely want to set up a special needs trust so that an inheritance will not affect the special needs family member's government benefits.
Then there are families with members who are not financially responsible. A trust can also be used to provide for these individuals gradually so that they are not given their entire inheritance at once at the risk of losing it all.
Every family's estate planning needs are different, which is why it's a good idea to consult an estate planning lawyer who can help each family set up a plan to best reach their goals.
Source: Green Bay Gazette, "Carissa Giebel column: Estate planning for blended families," Jan. 27, 2014