What is a blended family? The simple definition of a blended family, often called a stepfamily, is a family unit where one or both parents have children from a previous relationship, but they have combined to form a new family. The parents may or may not have children with each other. (Think Brady Bunch!) While once a rarity in American culture, today’s blended family is now quite common. About 75 percent of the 1.2 million Americans who divorce each year eventually remarry, and most have children. Older adults 55+ are increasingly remarrying, seeking companionship in their golden years.
As parents age, blended families often experience tension related to caregiving decision-making. Aging parents in second marriages force a need for collaborative decision-making between adult kids and step kids, and it can become a tug-of-war that puts seniors in emotional peril.
Consider these scenarios
Scenario 1: “This is Cathy. Your dad fell, and he’s in the hospital.” Who is Cathy? Oh yes, your dad’s stepdaughter—whom you’ve never met, as your dad and her mom only recently married.
Scenario 2: Your stepmother, who helped raise you, needs help as she recovers from a stroke, and you have plenty of room in your home. But she and your mother don’t get along very well, and Mom comes over often.
Scenario 3: Your husband has Alzheimer’s disease. His adult children from a former marriage want to come along to his doctor appointments, where they sometimes disagree with your decisions about care.
The challenges of caring for an aging parent and managing the family’s money become even more complex and potentially divisive in a blended family. They tend to face additional hurdles when addressing their estate planning. This article offers some helpful estate planning tips for the blended family.
Estate Planning for blended families
A General Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters is important! Completing this document will allow someone you trust to step in and act on your behalf should you become unable. Having a GDPOA in place could help avoid family arguments over finances.
A simple Will probably won’t cut it. If you want to create an “I love you” Will leaving everything to your spouse, be aware that after you are gone, he could cut out your children and leave all your assets to his children, a new spouse or anyone he wants. He has no obligation to your children.
Consider a trust that leaves assets to your spouse for her lifetime, with the balance passing to your children on her death. This ensures your spouse has access to the funds during her lifetime and the assets rightly go to your children when she is gone.
Decide who will make health care decisions. This is a big question. A Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare will allow you to name one person to make health care decisions. Will that be your surviving spouse or your son or daughter? A lot of stress can be avoided with this simple document.
Despite problems, a blended family is still just that—a family. The most heated arguments between family members often have more to do with too much caring than too little. Having a properly executed estate plan and open family discussions truly are gifts to those we love most!
Please call Hurley Elder Care Law at 404-843-0121 to discuss your estate planning needs.
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