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Blended families require thoughtful legal action

With today's higher divorce rate, and the decline in so-called nuclear families, that has changed. It is completely common for people with children from previous marriages to marry partners who also have children from their previous marriages.

The question is, who gets what? This is the overarching question in estate law: how to put life assets in the hands of all the people you have loved.

There are steps and there are steps.

When a person with no children marries a spouse who has children

You must accept that if you have no experience raising children, you may not be very good at it. The stepchildren may resent you or consider you an interloper. This atmosphere can change how you feel about including them in the will.

You may feel differently about including young children in your estate plans than older children. You may simply not like the stepchildren. You had nothing to do with their formation, and now here they are.

The stepparent must be careful not to seem to be taking the place of the biological parent.

The blended family - yours, mine and ours

This is a common configuration, and things can get complicated in a hurry. Different parenting styles may cause conflict. The stepchildren may not get along. The most successful approach is to meet with everybody and form a contract connecting everyone - new roles, new responsibilities.

When one partner in the marriage is a widow or widower with children

When a parent from the previous marriage has died, new marriages can get off to a rough start. It is hard to compete with a deceased biological parent.

You may not want to include your new partner's children in your estate plan, and all that can involve, including college, healthcare and inheritance rights. They key here is to identify these problems and put them down in writing early - so they do not become a cancer later on.

When parents of adult children remarry

Adult children do not always expect to be taken care of in estate matters. But it may be something you wish to suggest to bring the new family closer together. It's your call, but you must make it with everyone in mind.

At Samuel J Owen PC we encourage couples to consider prenuptial agreements so that both sides have a clear understanding of the other's intentions.

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