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Estate planning for blended families

Blended families -- those that consist of parents that come into a marriage with children already -- can face a unique set of financial barriers and estate planning obstacles. This is important to note, because blended families are now more prevalent than traditional families.

There are a lot of feelings to account for in a blended family's situation. Parents want to please the children that came from the previous marriage and also the children that they inherit from their new marriage. The newly married spouses might even have additional children of their own, which should also be accounted for in the estate plan.

Before any of the long-term arrangements are planned out, spouses in this situation need to take into account where certain money is coming from and how certain expenses are handled. In these families, spouses often find themselves either paying or receiving child support payments. Even if it involves collaborating with an ex-spouse, men and women are advised to shore these details up as they can cause financial confusion later on.

After that, spouses must tend to important estate-planning issues. One such task includes updating beneficiary designations on life insurance policies. This will allow a husband or wife to include, or exclude, anyone they wish, due to the change in circumstances.

The new husband and wife also need to decide how assets will be dispensed in the event one or both of them pass away. Long-term care specifications must also be made.

Just like any other family, blended families must make sure they have common estate planning tools in place, like a living will and durable powers of attorney.

Estate plans are only effective when they are updated as necessary. Failing to update an estate plan could cause intended beneficiaries not to reap the benefits of the estate while unintended ones might.

Source: Aiken Standard, "ON THE MONEY: Blended families can cause financial headaches," March 23, 2013

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