Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently had a new baby. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock,already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children tally to four. Four! I guess Kelly really is a rockstar!
There’s a risk here that I see a lot with blended families. Consider this: if Brandon dies before Kelly and clear provisions aren’t made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage in his estate plan, super duper conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that’s totally avoidable with advance planning now.
Look, I’m not saying Kelly’s evil or anything. I’ve just seen it too many times – merging two families into one can reveal financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple doesn’t deal with them early on.
I’ll just use 3 examples of these types of issues: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t insurmountable problems by any means, but dealing with them upfront can prevent a ton of grief and hard feelings later.
A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can work wonders here. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenup shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. But a prenup actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues while there’s significant love in the air.
This is particularly important in blended families, where the partners may have different expectations of how assets will be split if the marriage ends or when one of the partners dies. With the advice of trusted counsel (who actually knows how to counsel, not just lawyer), the prenup conversation can actually create more closeness.
Newly married couples may also have differences of opinion about budgets and financial goals. These issues are generally magnified in blended family situations. One or both partners may have accumulated assets or debts before their marriage, so it’s critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.
It’s especially important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a lawyer specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there’s not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor after the death of the first partner.
Solid estate planning is always important, but even more so in blended families. If you have a blended family or are in the process of merging two families, we can help you build a foundation for success.