Blended family with five children outdoors at a park

Estate Planning for Blended Families in Florida: Strategies for a Seamless Inheritance

Getting remarried after a divorce or the death of a prior spouse should motivate spouses to establish or revise an estate plan. However, when spouses combine their families, estate planning can come with significant personal and legal challenges. Blended families should familiarize themselves with strategies that can help make the estate planning process more seamless. 

Understanding Florida’s Inheritance Laws

Under Florida’s intestate succession laws, a surviving spouse in a blended family can receive one-half of a deceased spouse’s estate. After that, the remainder of the estate will pass to the deceased spouse’s descendants. However, intestate succession laws can lead to emotional and legal conflicts in blended families, as one side of the family may feel that the other side has gotten an inheritance they don’t “deserve.” Couples heading blended families can avoid intrafamily conflicts over inheritances through careful estate planning that carries out their goals and wishes.

Strategies for Blended Family Estate Planning

Critical strategies for effective estate planning for blended families include:

  • Open Communication – New couples should exercise open communication and close collaboration when estate planning to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Open communication should also extend to the couple’s children and their respective families so that everyone understands the reasons for their estate planning decisions. 
  • Leveraging Trusts for Asset Preservation and Distribution – Trusts can help facilitate the distribution of assets according to your preferences, especially if you want to pass more to your children without worrying about your spouse’s elective share. 
  • Consideration of Beneficiary Designations – Spouses in blended families should consider what beneficiary designations they want to make for life insurance plans or annuities based on their wishes to provide for children or their new spouse. 
  • Regular Review and Updates to Reflect Changing Circumstances – As in all estate planning situations, families should review estate plans every few years or after any significant changes in circumstances. While divorce and remarriage represent two major changes that should prompt a review of one’s estate plan, couples might review and revise their estate plans as their blended family grows closer. For example, a spouse may not want to provide an inheritance for their stepchildren soon after remarrying, but may change that outlook as they develop a closer relationship with their stepchildren. 

Considerations for Children from Prior Relationships

After remarrying, couples may wish to focus on protecting their biological children’s inheritances while also providing for their new spouse should the worst happen. Furthermore, depending on the circumstances of their divorce, a spouse may have ongoing financial and legal obligations to their ex, such as paying alimony or child support or maintaining a life insurance policy to secure their alimony obligation. 

Over time, spouses in blended families may develop a deep emotional bond with their stepchildren, which may lead to the spouse adopting their stepchildren or amending their estate plan to provide for stepchildren as they have provided for their biological children. Spouses in blended families may choose to provide for both biological children and stepchildren, especially when the couple conceives and has children of their own. 

Addressing Potential Conflicts and Disputes

When engaging in estate planning as a blended family, couples should consider how to address potential conflicts and disputes from exes, their children, and both sides of their families. Avoiding conflicts over estate plans and inheritances begins with understanding family dynamics to identify solutions most likely to prevent or resolve disputes. Clear documentation can also help prevent disputes when the family understands your wishes and preferences. 

The Importance of Professional Assistance and Legal Counsel

Blended families can make estate planning more effective and less stressful by seeking professional assistance. Working with family counselors or mediators can help couples resolve disputes over estate planning details and communicate preferences and the reasons behind those preferences to children and other family members. Hiring an estate planning attorney can also help couples evaluate their options and ensure their estate plan reflects their wishes and complies with applicable laws. 

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today

When figuring out your estate plan as a blended family, seeking experienced legal counsel can assist with the planning process. Contact the Law Office of Angela Siegel today for an initial consultation to learn how a caring, knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you and your spouse develop an estate plan that reflects your new family dynamics.