In many areas of Illinois, the typical family is blended. That is, there are exes, stepparents, stepchildren, step-grandparents and the like. Each blended family is unique, but many have specific estate planning considerations that may not apply to “traditional” families.
For example, if you have been in your second marriage for 30 years and consider your spouse’s children, whom you helped raise, as your own, you should make specific provisions for them so they are not unintentionally disinherited.
Children you view as your own
When you love children as if they are your own, whether they are stepchildren, step-grandchildren or another form of “step,” and want them to be part of your legacy, it is critical you make plans for them. Otherwise, your assets may go to your legal heirs, people you may not prefer to receive them at the expense of the others you love. Even if there is an “understanding” in the family, get it down on paper. For instance, if you tell your biological children to share their inheritances with their step-siblings, there is no guarantee that will actually happen.
Assets you want to protect
Speaking of good intentions gone awry, that can occur sometimes with assets such as homes. Suppose you bought a house with your first spouse, had a child and then your spouse died. You remarried and continued living in the house. Your ultimate goal is for your child from the first marriage to end up with the house, but if you die first and your spouse gets the house, it could be that your child will not end up with it. For one thing, if your spouse has children of his or her own, they could be first in line for the house instead of your child. Thus, it is critical to explore ways to protect assets you have specific plans for. Creating a trust is one way to do so.