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Blended families: Common, with singular estate planning needs

Here's a hypothetical that closely approximates reality for many families in Texas and across the country.

You were married for a number of years and had three kids from the union. You and your spouse were wise and frugal, thus managing to squirrel away substantial assets over the years you were together. When you divorced, you got your fair share.

Now you are newly married, for a second time. The same is true for your new spouse, who also has three children and various assets carried over free and clear from a prior marriage.

Four of the six kids are adults and on their own, going to school, starting jobs and families and so forth. A couple of them are still at home, one having special needs. Additionally, you and your new partner plan on having additional children.

The above description depicts the so-called "blended" American family in one of its many forms. Such families are often sprawling, happy, ever-changing and quite complex.

And, say many planning experts, they have singular estate planning needs that, as one planner notes, can easily involve "a number of different considerations" from those that a non-blended family faces.

Those considerations can be myriad and across a wide spectrum. They include the need to provide for a new spouse, already existing children from a prior marriage, and special circumstances that might relate to one or more of those children. Asset preservation is often a key issue for blended families, as is the need to stay on top of beneficiary designations and updates. Wills must be carefully coordinated, as is also true for health care directives, power of attorney designations and additional matters.

Couples in blended families often find that establishing one or more trusts goes far toward accomplishing estate planning goals, given the great flexibility and protections that such legal instruments can offer in many instances.

There is often a lot for a blended family to think about from a planning perspective. A proven estate planning attorney can assist in identifying issues, suggesting strategies and creating carefully tailored legal documents that fully promote a family's interests.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, "Carissa Giebel column: estate planning for blended families," Carissa Giebel, Jan. 27, 2014

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