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Estate Planning for Blended Families

Planning Discussions with a Blended Family

Three Steps to Consider in the Planning Process:
The Parties Involved in These Discussions Can Include

Next Steps in the Engagement Process

Estate Planning Strategies to Protect Your Family and Assets


  1. Irrevocable Wills

    Couples can execute an agreement not to revoke their wills without each other’s knowledge. The intent with this agreement is to avoid a situation in which a surviving spouse immediately executes a new will that leaves everything to their children, excluding the deceased spouse’s children.

  2. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)

    An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust is a type of trust set up to own a life insurance policy. The trust is typically designated as the primary beneficiary, and when the insured dies, the death benefit is deposited into the ILIT. It is then held in the trust for the benefit of the individuals named in the trust document. ILITs can be an attractive option for blended families seeking to reduce estate taxes and treat surviving spouses and children fairly.

  3. Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP)

    A QTIP trust is commonly used by individuals who have children from a previous marriage. This type of trust is setup to provide income to a surviving spouse, while avoiding disinheriting the heirs of the deceased spouse. This allows individuals to maintain control of the ultimate disposition of their assets to ensure that the wealth remaining upon the death of the spouse is distributed for their own children, or other designated beneficiaries.

  4. Spendthrift Trusts

    If you have any concerns about a child or spouse spending down their inheritance quickly, a spendthrift trust could be a solution. This type of trust puts restrictions on the beneficiary’s access to the trust principal.  The beneficiary will generally receive benefits from the trust through the named trustee, often in the form of regular payments from the trust.  How the trustee makes payments to the beneficiary is determined by the terms of the trust.

  5. Special Needs Trusts (SNT)

    This type of trust is established to separate assets from a special needs individual in order to maintain eligibility for benefits such as Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. It is funded at the death of the individual who cares for the individual with special needs. The assets pass to the trust, thus avoiding being owned by the special needs individual. The proceeds from this trust will typically be put towards medical caretaker expenses, and the trustee will supervise the distribution and management of the funds.

  6. Pre- and Post-Nuptial Agreements

    One way of avoiding competing interests in a blended family is to set out your intentions for your estate plan in a prenuptial agreement. These documents can be a very important component as they can direct the distribution of assets, waive a spouse’s right to his or her elective share, and can assist in providing an orderly transition following death or divorce.