Starting a new family is always exciting and even a tad scary. This natural apprehension can be enhanced when a couple creates a blended family.
Bringing children from different parents together presents challenges – and those challenges are multiplied when the couple have new children of their own. Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently added a new baby to her family. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, have been married a little over three years. Kelly and Brandon already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children to four.
The big risk of conflict for Kelly, Brandon and their children is that if Brandon dies before Kelly and specific and clear provisions are not made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage, significant conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that is totally avoidable with advance planning now.
Merging two families into one presents financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple does not deal with them early on.
Legal Planning for the Blended Family
Three significant issues include: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. While these are not insurmountable problems, dealing with them upfront can prevent grief and hard feelings later.
A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can prevent later misunderstandings. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenuptial agreement shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. In truth, however, a prenuptial agreement actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues while there is significant love in the field.
This is particularly important in blended families, where the partners may have different expectations of how assets will be split if the marriage ends or when one of the partners dies. With skilled counsel (who actually knows how to counsel not just lawyer), the prenuptial agreement conversation can actually create more closeness.
Newly married couples may also have differences of opinion about budgets and financial goals. These issues are generally magnified in blended family situations. One or both partners may have accumulated assets or debts before their marriage, so it is critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.
It is especially important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a Personal Family Lawyer® specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there is not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor of the partnership after the death of the first to die.
Solid estate planning is always important, but it is even more so in blended families. If you have a blended family or are in the process of merging two families, we can help you build a foundation for success.
As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session. If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
To your family’s health, wealth and happiness!
P.S. Want to get started on the most important planning you’ll ever do for your family? Give our office a call at (978) 263-6900 to get started. You’ll be so glad you did.
David Feakes is the owner of The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC – a law firm for families in the Acton, Massachusetts area. David helps parents protect the people they love the most. If you would like to receive David’s exclusive, free report, “Six Major Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing An Estate Planning Attorney,” you can get it right here.
Photo by Kelly Clarkson Instagram