Merging Two Families? Don’t Forget Your Finances

Becoming a blended family presents unique opportunities and some challenges with regard to your financial and estate planning. In 40% of all new marriages in the United States, at least one of the spouses was previously married. There are unique financial and estate planning dynamics that can come from merging families, especially as it relates to financial values, existing documents, money philosophies and even your spending habits.

There’s a good chance that the way you talk to your individual children about finances is different too. From savings plans to allowances, it’s important for you and your new spouse to get on the same page. In these circumstances, it’s a good idea to look at existing documents that both of you are bringing into the marriage.

Estate planning must be tackled together with your new family in order to ensure that your estate planning documents and strategies accomplish your goals. Once you’re married, your blended family should quickly reevaluate existing estate planning processes.

It’s important to think about how you will care for your children from your previous marriage and ensure that they are not accidentally excluded from your estate planning that you update across the board to reflect your new family arrangements. In addition to making sure that your new spouse is taken care of, you’ll want to talk with an estate planning lawyer to verify whether or not your existing estate planning documents protect your children from a previous marriage the way that you intended.

For further information about this process, schedule a time to talk with a dedicated estate planning lawyer.

Since blended families have so much to think about, you need dedicated advocates in your corner to help you.

Update Your Planning If a Divorce Is on the Horizon

Have you recently filed for divorce or are you in the midst of the proceedings to legally end your marriage? It’s easy to feel like there are plenty of details to think about, but chief among them should be what happens to your existing estate plans. During the divorce is a good time to evaluate any joint accounts, policies, or paperwork that gives your soon-to-be former spouse any level of decision-making power over your future. 

Most people forget in the process of handling all of the paperwork and the life changes that come with a divorce, to update their estate plans accordingly. In fact, it could be weeks or months before you update this necessary paperwork and if something were to happen in between, there’s a good chance that your former spouse is still listed as the person eligible to receive assets or to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. 

There’s no doubt that this should be a top of mind priority as you approach getting closer to your divorce date. Many attorneys have reported that their office has been busier than usual with contacting questions about updating estate planning documents or getting estate planning done for the first time at all. 

These documents are not static and should remain living and breathing documents that should change just as often as your life does. Health care directives, powers of attorney and beneficiary forms are just a few examples of the documents that should be updated after you get divorced. To ensure that all necessary paperwork is updated with your new life, schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney to walk through a checklist of what you can anticipate.       

Our law offices are still open and working with clients to ensure that all of your needs are addressed. If you need to set up a time to draft new wills, powers of attorney, or other documents, we’re here to help. 

Two Trust Tips for Blended Families and Second Marriages

Contemplating your estate planning considerations after getting married for a second time is especially important because there are critical issues that could easily be overlooked that could leave your children from your first marriage or even your new spouse at a disadvantage. estate-planning-trusts

What follows are two different estate planning tips and considerations for those in second marriages. First of all, spouses can leave their assets separate and have their own revocable trust. You should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss this option. A trust could be established with the benefit of a surviving spouse after the first spouse passes away. This would enable the surviving spouse to tap into income or even principle.

It’s important to consider giving children a bequest upon the first death, which means that the children will have at least received something if the surviving spouse ends up needing most or all of those funds. The second thing to consider is to choose trustees wisely. The surviving spouse should not be the only person who is listed as a trustee. This means that the trustee has the power to withdraw all of the principle inside the trust which could potentially disinherit children accidentally. The second tip to consider with regards to trust planning for your estate is to create a joint trust which is irrevocable upon the death of the first spouse.

If the spouses wish to sign a joint trust, then the trust must be drafted so that it is irrevocable upon the death of the first spouse. Always consider how you can incorporate children from a previous relationship by giving them a bequest upon the first death. Putting together a trust gives you power, control and some level of flexibility when you have an experienced estate planning lawyer who can help you to draft it and ensure that you have considered all the unique aspects of your individual life. You will have both confidence as well as peace of mind that you have considered all of the most important components of estate planning for your children.


What You Need to Know About Multi-Generational Estate Planning Concerns

U.S. families are increasingly opting to roll things together. In fact, data from a Pew Research Center analysis identified that 20% of the U.S. population lived in multi-generational homes. This brings about important concerns for estate planning. In some cases, this has to do with older children moving back in with their parents in order to make ends meet while carrying through their student loan payments.

Others may involve grandparents who are involved in providing childcare. No matter what your house looks like, including your loved ones in your estate planning and considering the structure of your family is important.

Many adult children are now considering how they can rework their existing housing arrangements to accommodate the needs of aging parents who require additional healthcare support.

This means that estate planning and financial planning must be calculated because good planning is crucial to the success of all of these arrangements. There are many different multi-generational tax, financial and estate planning issues that can arise. Thought must be given in particular to those questions such as who should own the real estate and if that title is taken jointly in a family partnership, trust or otherwise. Inter-family loans might also be one other option to explore. multigenerational-estate-planning

Additionally, consider whether or not there exist sufficient assets in the parents’ estate to pay for any estate taxes while also providing for other beneficiaries.

Real estate must also be included in the consideration of the overall estate plan and whether or not the plan is fair for all of the heirs. Deciding who should be included on what assets they should receive is extremely important and can help eliminate conflicts in the future. Navigating the decision-making process means thinking about what it means to include all of your key family members and common missteps that you should always opt to avoid, if possible.

Scheduling a consultation directly with an experienced estate planning attorney is often the first step in getting your questions answered and understanding the various tactics and strategies available to you.


Financial Matters You Must Consider in a Second Marriage

Day to day financial management, liabilities and assets are all of unique concern to people in second marriages or blended families. Whether you are remarrying after the death of a spouse or after a divorce, it is important to enter into this with new and smart financial planning.blended-families-estate-planning

There are many different things to consider, including how you will address your future financial wishes and your current financial situation. It helps to begin with a comprehensive review of your liabilities as well as your assets. These liabilities can include student loan debt, credit card balances, mortgages, car loans and more. Your assets can include a house, stocks, bank accounts, cars, insurance contracts and more.

The day to day financial obligations should also be addressed with a new spouse. How will the monthly bills get paid? Some couples choose to put everything in a joint account, whereas others choose to have separate checking account and split their expenses in that manner. No matter what you select, it’s important to engage with an estate planning lawyer and a financial advisor to help.

Five Estate Planning Issues You Must Consider with a Second Marriage

Getting married for a second or third time is increasingly common in the United States. However, the complicated estate planning and financial issues can be anything but simple if you don’t schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer well in advance. There are many different issues that can emerge when it comes to blended families and second marriages. First of all, you may already have an estate plan in place from your previous marriage. There’s also a good chance that your former spouse was listed as a beneficiary on your retirement accounts and your life insurance policies.

If you fail to update this information, by law those companies are required to give it to the person listed on the accounts. estate planning for a second marriage

It is imperative that your estate plan be in conjunction with the other materials you have designed to pass on assets to people in the future such as your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Some of the critical issues that you need to discuss with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney when getting married for a second time include:

  • Community property versus common law
  • Ownership and expenses
  • Timing of inheritance
  • Remarriage protection
  • Use of the home

Consulting with a lawyer will help illuminate you on the various issues that can affect you and how to plan appropriately so that everyone is clear on their rights and responsibilities.

Blended Families and Estate Planning: Looking Ahead

While estate planning is important for everyone, it’s extremely important if you have a blended family. One of the biggest reasons for this is that blended families are much more likely to have complicated issues and it’s a situation in which small mistakes can become big ones if you don’t plan ahead properly. It’s important to identify an attorney who has experience with handling these kinds of complex concerns in your family so that you have peace of mind that you’ve considered all options. 

More and more Americans are part of a blended family. This simply refers to a situation in which one or even both spouses are bringing in children from a prior marriage. It can be really complicated to approach estate planning in these situations in which the adult probably wants to care for their surviving spouse as well as children from the previous spouse. One way to do this is to consider using a trust. When opting for a trust, you have more say and control over how your assets are distributed. Setting up a meeting with an estate planning lawyer is strongly recommended if you’re thinking about using a trust.

It’s about more than putting together new documents, however. You’ll want to be equally concerned about updating documents you already have. Even the best of intentions and clear instructions in your estate planning documents can be overridden if the account in question is one where you need to name beneficiaries. For example, your IRA or your life insurance policy carriers will keep your instructions about who is to receive your assets. If you don’t also update these materials when you get remarried, the company will carry out the last valid instructions you left on your beneficiary forms. If you forget to update these, there’s a strong chance that your previous spouse could be legally entitled to receive some or all of those benefits.

Set aside a time to meet with your estate planning lawyer to talk about how your previous marriage and your new marriage warrant a review of your estate planning goals. Setting aside the time to talk to someone who understands the legal implications of these issues can be extremely helpful and give you some confidence that you’ve put together a plan that reflects your current needs.


Blended Family Estate Planning

Everyone can benefit from some type of estate planning, but this process becomes all the more important in the event that you’re blending families. The best time to handle this situation is now, before any of the necessary plans must be implemented. Estate planning is not always easy, but partnering with the right lawyer can make the process easier to manage. A knowledgeable lawyer can go a long way towards helping you figure out next steps.

One of the most important things to remember is to update beneficiary designations for accounts like your life insurance policy or your IRA. Even updating these details inside your estate plan doesn’t mean that it overrules what’s listed in your account paperwork- whatever your insurance company or IRA has on file will be the information referenced. If you have a child or former spouse listed as the beneficiary to your IRA, for example, then that individual will receive the assets if something happens to you. This means your current spouse may be ignored entirely. Getting remarried should prompt you to review all this material. 

Another good option for your estate planning purposes is to create a living trust. This can help your loved ones avoid the process of probate while also giving you more information about how your assets should be distributed. The trust could even give your surviving spouse income for the rest of his or her life if it’s structured properly.

A prenuptial agreement may be the final planning tool you can use in order to protect yourself with a blended family. Assets entering complicated blended family situations may need special planning opportunities that could be handled by an experienced estate planning lawyer in NJ.

Combining two different families is an exciting occasion, but it’s one that warrants insight from an experienced lawyer.

Estate Planning and Remarriage: Mistakes to Avoid, Part 2

When you are getting married for the second or third time, there are important things you need to consider related to your estate planning. Since remarriage is only on the rise, prepare to avoid these common mistakes by working directly with an estate planning attorney.

Mistake #4: Not Updating the Will

A remarriage is a big life change and one that warrants an update in your will. You may need to include new family members like the spouse and his or her children in your will, so it’s worth a review. Along the same lines, make sure the language in your will is clear. When you make a reference to “my children”, what does that actually mean? Likewise, “my family” can be quite vague. shutterstock_132297164

Mistake #5: Not Factoring In the Feelings of All Family Members

It’s often overlooked just how much your family might care about your estate planning. This is especially true for children and stepchildren in blended families. Even if the relationship with all these individuals seems good now, that ca change in the future. Be open to reviewing your documents at least once a year.

You can avoid these common mistakes by setting up an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney. Estate planning is not an activity that you can schedule once and forget- it’s an ongoing process that can be altered based on the changing needs of your life. Contact us at

Newlywed Estate Planning

While there is a great deal to celebrate getting ready for your wedding, don’t neglect this excellent opportunity to delve into your estate planning as well. Unfortunately, as you may already know, accidents can happen at any time. Of course we all hope that nothing impacts your new family and celebrations, but it is critical that you discuss your plans with your new spouse and outline your plans early. Remember that it will be much easier to update them later on once you have decided on the proper documents, but that you should never neglect putting your plan together entirely.

Newlywed Estate Planning

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You can begin with small steps, like changing your account beneficiaries. This is one of the easiest things to do in your overall estate plan, but there are big ramifications if you’re adding on your new spouse. Do it early. Make sure you update your life insurance, IRA, and 401k accounts, including any others that may have beneficiaries listed in the event that something happens to you.

Your next step should be to look over any wills that both of you have and to ensure that each individual has a solid will reflecting his or her current wishes. Powers of attorney and medical directives are also crucial for new spouses who may be updating their information from the past to reflect their new marriage. For more ideas about transitioning your estate planning to married life, contact us through email at or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Estate Planning Tips for the Blended Family

Second or third marriages can be very fulfilling, but they also bring their own set of challenges when it comes to estate planning. There could be children from previous relationships and children that have been born into the new marriage. If both parties were previously divorced, this can complicate property and other assets that have been brought into the marriage.

Estate Planning Tips for the Blended Family
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You want to approach this issue by thinking about your individual estate planning goals first. Your assets, like investments, retirement plans, brokerage accounts, jewelry, cars, and houses, should all be considered. If you have not recently updated your beneficiary designations, you will want to consider whether your goals have changed as a result of a new marriage. Frequently people forget to update the beneficiaries on these important accounts after getting remarried, so it’s important to schedule an annual review with your estate planning specialist so that your documents always reflect your most current goals.

If there are certain items that you want your children to receive, make sure that you clearly note these items in your estate planning documents. Leaving all of the property to the surviving spouse may not be the best approach because it doesn’t ensure that those children will actually receive those benefits. In many cases, it’s most appropriate to use trusts to provide for the spouse while making separate plans for the children to receive the property. To learn more about our special planning for blended families, reach out to us through email at or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Special Planning for Second Marriages: Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem

The recent news hoopla over Casey Kasem illustrates an important lesson for planning your own estate: things may change when you throw a second marriage into the mix, calling for a re-evaluation of your plans. There are many things that should be addressed in estate planning where a second marriage has occurred. Doing so will help prevent problems and lay the groundwork for plans that actually carry out your wishes rather than spark legal battles among family members.

Special Planning for Second Marriages Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem
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Medical directives, powers of attorney, and even decisions about burial planning should all be considered in your estate plan if you are involved in a second or third marriage. This avoids conflict between family members that can make the grieving process even more difficult.

When it comes to passing down assets, this is especially complex in a second marriage. Who should get the money? Should it be split between children? Does it go to the first wife in one lump sum and the remainder is split among the children? There’s a lot of tension that can arise if you don’t think about the answers to these questions well in advance. Conflicts tend to crop up especially when a non-parent spouse is receiving assets that children feel entitled to in one sense or another. The more clarity there is in your planning, the better. Once you’ve met with an estate planning professional, it’s important that you in some sense communicate what you have outlined to family member stakeholders. To learn more about estate planning techniques for second and third marriages, email us at or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455

“Here’s a Story…Of a Lovely Lady…” Planning for Today’s Blended Families

I grew up watching the Brady Bunch.  Mike and Carol Brady are my first recollection of the “Blended Family.”  Mike had three children from a previous marriage: Greg, Peter and Bobby (of course, they also had Tiger, the family dog.)  Carol had three daughters from her previous marriage:  Marsha, Jan and Cindy … the youngest one in curls.  Although the concept may have been very progressive & I found the show very entertaining, I have my doubts about how representative or realistic it is of Blended Families that exist today.

For example, wouldn’t it be more likely in today’s age that Mike’s and/or Carol’s divorces would have led to the creation of their new blended family (as opposed to them both being widowed?)  I suppose that the producers of the show felt that having Mike’s or Carol’s divorced spouse written into the show would have changed the dynamic (if so, I have to agree.)

Also, what if Mike and Carol had more children after they were married?  This new child would be the only common biological child to both parents.   How would that have affected the family?

A quick Google search revealed this as a definition for a Blended Family (from this Boston College website):

    “1. A family that is formed when separate families are united by marriage or other circumstance; a stepfamily. 

    2. Various kinship or nonkinship groups whose members reside together and assume traditional family roles” (Barker, 2003, p. 46).

“…has a role structure in which at least one parent has been previously married and which includes children from one or both of these marriages” (Johnson, 2000, p. 119).

My colleague, Jennifer L. Moccia, has written a wonderful blog post with some introductory thoughts on the topic, titled Estate Planning Considerations for Blended Families.  Ms. Moccia notes some of the issues surrounding these “nontraditional” families, including:

  • the fear that children from a prior relationship may not be provided for by the surviving spouse if the parent were to become disabled or pass away,
  • how the absence of an estate plan & a marital agreement may affect a child’s inheritance because of state law,
  • who would control the child’s inheritance in the case of a minor child, and
  • how to accomplish the parents desires to treat children equally or unequally.

You can read the entire blog post by clicking here.  I think the following quote from her post puts it best: “Successful blended family estate planning is a matter of setting and communicating goals, learning the available legal strategies, implement­ing the chosen documents and setting appropriate expectations for the client. With guidance from experienced counsel, the various goals of each family can be met by crafting and implementing estate plans that provide for each spouse and protect the interests of their respective children.”