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How to create an estate plan in a blended family

People in New York who have blended families may want to consider a trust instead of a will for estate planning purposes. A will that leaves everything to a spouse could result in the spouse later cutting out the children from the previous marriage. This may happen because of malice but not always. Over time, the spouse and stepchildren might fall out of touch. The spouse might even remarry.

A trust could be set up that benefits the spouse for the remainder of the spouse's lifetime and then passes to the children on the spouse's death. A trust would also protect the assets if the spouse remarries. Choosing the right trustee is important. This should be someone who has the financial expertise to manage the trust correctly and who can also manage any conflict between the spouse and children. A person does create this kind of trust may want to leave some assets for the children so they are not left waiting for a stepparent's death.

Another issue may be choosing who can make medical decisions. Choosing who will have health care power of attorney can be fraught in any situation, but it is even more likely to be so in blended families. There are situations in which a stepparent has cut off children's access to a parent or vice versa.

An attorney might be able to assist a person in working through some of these considerations. For example, some people prefer to appoint a corporate trustee. This person has the professional expertise to manage the estate. A corporate trustee could be co-trustee along with a family member if the person is concerned about having someone who understands family dynamics involved in the trust. Discussing the estate plan with family members may also help them understand the reasoning behind and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

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