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Modern families may have unique estate planning needs

Over the last few generations, the face of the American family has changed. For example, many people are getting remarried and creating blended families that include children from previous marriages, in addition to the potential of children brought into the family during the new marriage.

Of course, this means that certain legal steps may need to be taken to address a family's changing needs. This may be especially true in estate planning. People want to be confident that their assets will be distributed to the appropriate parties after they pass away. Remarriage and welcoming new children into the family are good reasons to make sure that beneficiary designations are up to date.

The first thing a person may want to check to see if his or her ex-spouse listed as beneficiary on certain assets. Failure to update this could unintentionally cause valuable investments from being passed on to the current spouse as intended.

Additionally, establishing children or stepchildren as beneficiaries is particularly important in blended families. For example, people might want to provide some assets to children that are from their spouse's previous marriage. Not only that, but they may also want to make sure any designations for children aren't unexpectedly changed by their spouse down the road.

One estate planning observer notes that creating trusts may be a good way to address the needs of a blended family. This way, an individual can set aside assets for a specific person without having to defer to state probate laws that might not fully address the make-up of blended families. Of course, creating trusts can be a complex task, so it's important to ensure that it's done carefully to ensure that the testator's assets and legacy are adequately protected.

Source: GreenBayPressGazette.com, "Estate planning for blended families," Carissa Giebel, Jan. 27, 2014

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