Estate Planning for Blended Families

A couple discussing estate planning for blended families

When it comes to planning for the future, blended families have some additional considerations in managing their estates. Some people assume that leaving assets to their new spouse will automatically lead to a fair distribution among the children from each marriage after their passing, but the reality is more complicated. Here’s what you need to know about creating an estate plan for your blended family.

Understanding Blended Families

A blended family in Tennessee refers to a household formed when two individuals with children from previous relationships marry or cohabitate. 40% of families in the United States blended, meaning that at least one partner had a child from a past relationship before the marriage.

This arrangement results in a household comprised of: 

  • Step-parents 
  • Step-siblings 
  • Potential half-siblings 

While step-parents may play a significant role in a child’s life, they do not automatically possess legal rights or responsibilities. To establish legal authority, step-parents may choose to pursue adoption, granting them legal standing as a parent. 

Additionally, step-parents may seek to create a formal parenting plan to outline: 

  • Custody arrangements 
  • Visitation schedules 
  • Financial responsibilities 

Although nobody likes to think about it, if one parent in a blended family passes away, their spouse may not have full custody of their children. That’s why it’s crucial to understand these aspects is crucial for ensuring the well-being and stability of blended families in Tennessee. Consulting with legal professionals or family counselors can offer further guidance in navigating these complexities.

The Importance of Estate Planning for Blended Families in Tennessee

Without proper planning, conflicts may arise over inheritance distribution, leading to strained relationships and legal battles. Tennessee’s intestacy laws may not align with a blended family’s preferences, potentially leaving stepchildren or new spouses without the intended support. Additionally, guardianship issues may arise if biological parents pass away, necessitating clear directives for the care of minor children.

Without a doubt, the biggest mistake blended families can make is not having a will.

Establishing wills, trusts, and clear beneficiary designations can help allocate assets according to one’s wishes. Powers of attorney and healthcare directives can also ensure that decisions align with the individual’s preferences in case of incapacity. 

Johnson, Murrell & Associates can provide thoughtful and thorough estate planning. We help blended families in Tennessee protect their loved ones and promote harmony within the family unit.

Key Considerations for Estate Planning in Tennessee

Essential considerations for effective estate planning for blended families in Tennessee include wills and trusts, guardianship and custody, as well as inheritance and asset protection. These legal tools can be customized to suit the unique dynamics of blended families. 

Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are fundamental tools in the estate planning process. A will: 

  • Outlines how assets are to be distributed 
  • Appoints guardians for minor children 
  • Names an executor to oversee the estate 

Without a will, Tennessee law dictates the distribution of assets, which may not align with your wishes.

Trusts are equally essential and offer various benefits, including: 

  • Avoiding probate 
  • Maintaining privacy 
  • Providing for the management of assets in case of incapacity 

Trusts can be tailored to specific needs, making them particularly valuable for blended families. For example, they can stipulate how assets are distributed among children from different marriages, ensuring fair treatment for all beneficiaries.

Careful consideration is required in blended families. Trusts can be structured to provide for a surviving spouse while also securing assets for children from prior marriages. This may involve setting up a revocable living trust or using other specialized trust arrangements.

Ultimately, consulting with our team of experienced Tennessee estate planning attorneys is crucial to navigating these considerations. We can help create a comprehensive plan that aligns with your unique circumstances and goals.

Stepchildren and Inheritance – Potential Concerns

In Tennessee, a divorce does not remove a stepchild from the will. For example, if Joe marries Sally and Sally has a child from a previous relationship, Joe may put Sally and the child in his will. If he then divorces, the court will nullify an inheritance to his wife, but not to his stepchild. If Joe does not want to include Sally’s child in his will, he’ll need to revise the document.

In another example, if Joe and Sally each have a child from a previous relationship before they marry each other, then Joe dies without a will, Tennessee intestacy laws will split Joe’s estate between his biological child and his wife, but will not include his stepchild. (This is different if Joe has legally adopted the stepchild, in which case the adopted child is treated like a biological child.)

In any case, it’s absolutely essential to have a will that explicitly states your wishes.

Do you need help with estate planning for your blended family in East Tennessee? Contact us today to schedule your consultation!

Estate planning for blended families in Tennessee requires a thoughtful approach. It’s vital to establish a detailed parenting arrangement covering custody, visitation, and financial responsibilities. Customized estate planning is key to preventing potential disputes over inheritance. Wills, trusts, and precise designations guarantee equitable asset allocation. Johnson, Murrell & Associates specializes in guiding blended families toward a secure future through comprehensive services in wills, trusts, guardianship, and inheritance.

At Johnson, Murrell, & Associates, we understand that handling a loved one’s estate and bills after their passing is an emotional, stressful experience. Our job is to make your life easier, which means guiding you through the process so you understand what’s to come. To schedule a consultation, call us at 865-453-1091 or schedule an appointment.

Picture of Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson is a partner at Johnson, Murrell & Associates specializing in probate law. He is a University of Tennessee College of Law graduate, and his experience includes serving on the Leadership Tomorrow Advisory Board, the Sevierville Commons Association, and the Board of Directors for the United Way of Sevier County.