Every family has its own unique and complex dynamics. You may be a spouse, a parent, a step-parent, a sibling, a grandparent, domestic partner, close friend, caretaker, business owner; we all play many roles. To responsibly take care of the people that depend on you, it’s essential that you have an estate plan. Estate planning can have several components depending on your circumstances, including, but not limited to:
Creating a will to designate an executor (personal representative), choose who will get your property, and select a guardian for children under 18.
(e.g., 401k, IRA, SEP), life insurance benefits, and other assets that are jointly held or have designated beneficiaries.
Creating trusts to avoid probate and/or tax issues and smoothly transition property
Determining powers of attorney if you are incapacitated
Preparing for end-of-life issues and other healthcare directives
Designating gifts for charity or organ donations
Ensuring business continuity
Specifying who will receive personal and household items
This is only a partial list you may need more or less estate planning documents depending on your family’s circumstances. The State Bar of Michigan has a brochure that can help with pre-planning for your estate.
Is estate planning different for blended families?
For blended families in Michigan, estate planning can be more complex. Michigan’s inheritance laws treat children and stepchildren differently for probate and inheritance. If there are children under 18, choosing a guardian and/or executor must consider any former parents and relatives as relationships among your children and stepchildren. Estate planning can be an evolving process. You may change or enhance your estate plan as your family grows or whenever it makes sense to do so, but if you have children, getting started on a framework for your blended family’s estate plan should be a priority.
What is a blended family?
When we think of a blended family, the old Brady Bunch family may come to mind. They were perfect. And, though we enjoyed watching these television families that all got along, they are as real as unicorns. Real, live blended families are much more difficult to navigate and come in many configurations. Basically, a blended family is created when parents who have children from a previous relationship form a new family. The parents may or may not have children with each other. The parents may be remarried or cohabitating after being widowed or divorced.
Blended families can include:
Stepchildren and half-siblings
Other relatives who live in the same home or depend upon your family for care
Ex-spouses and other biological parents
Children who have the same biological parents, but different adoptive parents.
What should blended families know about estate planning?
Like most families, blended families may have relatives who no longer communicate or preferences that can spark jealousy. An estate plan can be the difference between everyone “living happily ever after” and an ongoing feud. The simplicity of your estate plan depends on your particular family’s interpersonal dynamic and the amount of assets involved.
Your estate plan may include:
Pre-nuptial and other marital agreements serve as a formal acknowledgment of each spouse/partner’s rights and obligations for living expenses and long-term care, what happens if they divorce, etc.
Trusts designate how and when assets will be distributed outside of probate. Different types of trusts can be set up to protect your children or spouse/partner while they live and revert back to other survivors after they are gone.
Life estates where a home or property is given to your surviving spouse/partner but may revert to your children when your spouse/partner dies.
A Will to distribute property, appoint a personal representative and assign guardianship.
Healthcare directives designate the type of end-of-life care you want
Powers of attorney designate who is in charge if you should become incapacitated
Using these tools to create your estate plan can provide more peace of mind. In most cases, it’s a good idea to let your spouse/partner and adult children know about your estate plan and decisions. You should revisit and revise it about every three to five years.
Six Estate Planning Tips for Blended Families
Because Michigan probate law will probably not distribute your assets as you want, you need an estate plan to provide for your blended family and keep the peace after you are gone. Here are six tips for estate planning in Michigan:
Create a will, but do more. Your spouse/partner may marry after you are gone. With just a will, it’s possible that your children may be excluded from inheriting.
Create a trust that ensures your spouse/partner will be covered while alive but passes your assets to your children (or another designated beneficiary) when your spouse/partner has died.
Choose a trustee that you can trust with personal financial decisions. Try to get references for an experienced trustee.
Update your beneficiaries regularly on your investment accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and pension.
Leave specific assets to your children on your death. That way, they can have assets and family heirlooms before your spouse/partner dies.
Decide who will be responsible for your healthcare decisions and let them know. This will be an emotional time for everyone who loves you. The more you plan for it now, the fewer ugly conflicts there will be when you are gone.
Find an estate plan that fits your blended family
Because every blended family is unique, there’s no one-size fits-all estate plan. You can use this tool from the Estate Planning Law Firm to find the estate plan that’s right for you. We provide an online service with packages ranging from $99 to $1,099. Take the quiz on our website and find the estate planning package that fits your life. It’s simple and stress free to select the planning package that will help secure your family’s future. Our estate planning packages are crafted by our attorneys and customized by you. It just takes three steps:
Choose a package
Answer a few simple questions
Rest assured that your affairs and assets are protected
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Our estate planning packages are designed to make it simple for both couples and individuals to plan – not just for after you’re gone but as you age. It’s never too late to plan for your future. Get started today.
Our online tool makes creating trusts, wills, and other estate planning documents quick and cost-effective, crafted by real attorneys without the fuss.
Through our online tool, you will be able to create:
A basic will
A comprehensive trust plan
Medical power of attorney
Financial power of attorney
Guardianship for your children
Advanced healthcare planning
Behind The Estate Planning Law Firm, PLLC is not a team of software engineers or an automated program. We are a team of lawyers with over 30 years of combined experience planning wills, trust and estate for Americans across the country.