Families in New Jersey come in all shapes and sizes these days, and it is not unusual for a person to marry a second time either due to divorce or the death of their first spouse. Oftentimes there are children from a first marriage, resulting in a blended family with step-parents and step-children. In such situations, it is important to have a well-rounded estate plan that meets your wishes both for your new spouse and your children from your first marriage, especially if those children are now adults.
First, merely having a will may not be enough to meet your estate planning needs if you have a blended family. For example, if you leave everything to your new spouse in your will, once your new spouse passes away there is no guarantee that he or she will leave anything to the children from your first marriage, leaving them with nothing.
Instead, it may be prudent to execute a trust that leaves a certain amount of funds to your new spouse while he or she is alive, and once he or she passes away the trust assets will go to your children from your first marriage. A trust can also contain contingencies in the event that your new spouse remarries after your death, and it can leave some assets to your children from your first marriage directly rather than making them wait until your new spouse passes away.
In the end, blended families have to deal with some estate planning challenges that other families may not face. While it is hoped that step-parents and step-children will form a strong and loving bond, this bond may become rocky at the time of your death, especially if one party does not agree with the terms of your will. Having a clear estate plan that provides both for your new spouse and your children from your first marriage, if that is what you want, can help your loved ones understand what your wishes are and avoid conflict.