In Wisconsin when you are blending families, estate planning should be a higher priority on your to-do list. The stakes can be quite high if you fail to plan. However with the proper estate plan, you have the ability to protect your children and your current spouse in the event of your death.
Things are just a bit more complicated the second time around.
If you are in your second marriage, you have different things to consider in your estate plan. You are likely a bit older. So, you probably have more assets. One or both of you may have children from a prior marriage. Perhaps you and your current spouse entered the relationship with relatively equal assets. Perhaps one of you brought much more to the marriage. Each blended family is different.
What happens if you don’t plan in Wisconsin?
When a spouse from a blended family dies without an estate plan, it can be shocking to the family to learn how Wisconsin law distributes the assets. What if an individual has children from a previous relationship, marries a new spouse, and dies without an estate plan? In Wisconsin, generally speaking, half of the couple’s assets belong to the spouse. The other half belong to his or her children from the prior relationship.
It may be that you think it is fair for your assets to be split between your spouse and your children. But what if your main asset is the home you live in with your spouse? What if your spouse loses the house because he or she can’t afford to buy out the one-half interest from your children? Or maybe your spouse was independently wealthy and you believe your children should inherit what you brought into the marriage.
Beneficiary designations and joint ownership can complicate the situation – sometimes with devastating results. If you name your spouse as your beneficiary on your bank account, he or she will inherit everything in that account. When your spouse dies, his or her children stand to inherit everything, cutting out your children entirely.
If you are in a blended family, consider what you have in assets, how much you and your spouse brought into the marriage, how the assets are held (for example, homestead vs. liquid assets). And the current financial security of your spouse and your children. Then talk with your spouse. The best approach is to be direct and honest – with yourself, your spouse, and your children. And then consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your decisions are properly reflected in your plan.
If you are intentional about it, you can plan in a way that makes sense for you and your Wisconsin, Blended family.
“The best approach is to be direct and honest – with yourself, your spouse, and your children. “Racine Elder Law Attorney, Rebecca Mason
Blended Family Resources:
Good Therapy – Blended Family Issues
Blended Families and how they work, Wisconsin Public Radio