Blended Families Can Create Complications with Inheritances


More than $20 trillion will be transferred to heirs within the U.S. in the next 50 years, according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, and many of those heirs will be stepchildren or step-grandchildren. Estate planning is getting more complicated with the creation of more blended families and with increased longevity.

According to Census Bureau and National Stepfamily Resource Center statistics:

  • More than half of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
  • About 75 percent who divorce will remarry
  • About 65 percent of subsequent marriages involve children from previous relationships
  • More than 40 percent of all U.S. adults have at least one step-relative, e.g., a stepchild, stepparent or step-grandchild

An untimely death or event leading to incapacitation can create a huge mess for those left behind. Adding a few stepchildren or a blended family dispute to the situation can make for years of legal wrangling over houses, family heirlooms and money.

Many remarried fathers and mothers want to provide for their children but not necessarily for their stepchildren. A grandparent may wish to provide for his or her children but not for their kids’ new spouses or stepchildren with whom they have no relationship. An adult may like his or her parent’s new spouse but may not want to be responsible for that stepparent after the parent’s death. Nevertheless, this may become a reality if a parent leaves the house to a child while giving the stepparent the right to live it until his or her own death.

When someone dies without a will in California, the surviving spouse may get everything — depending on whether property is community or separate property — and leave the children of the deceased with nothing. Avoiding the complications created by layers of blended families can be possible through careful and creative estate planning.

If you do not have an estate plan, regardless of the size of your estate, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney who is experienced with estate planning matters. A lawyer who is knowledgeable with wills and trusts can help you establish a plan to provide for your heirs.