Starting a new family is always exciting and even a bit scary. This natural apprehension can be enhanced when a couple creates a blended family. Bringing children from different parents together presents challenges – and those challenges are multiplied when the couple have new children of their own.
Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently added a new baby to her family. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, have been married a little over three years. Kelly and Brandon already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children to four.
The big risk of conflict for Kelly, Brandon and their children is that if Brandon dies before Kelly and specific and clear provisions are not made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage, significant conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that is totally avoidable with advance planning now.
Merging two families into one presents financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple does not deal with them early on.
These significant issues include: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. While these are not insurmountable problems, dealing with them upfront can prevent grief and hard feelings later.
A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can prevent later misunderstandings. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenuptial agreement shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. In truth, however, a prenuptial agreement actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues earlier rather than later.
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 skilled counsel (who actually knows how to counsel, not just draft documents), the prenuptial agreement 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 is critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.
It is particularly important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a Personal Family Lawyer specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there is not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor of the partnership after the death of the first to die.
Proper estate planning is always important, but it can be even more critical in blended families. If you have a blended family or are in the process of merging two families into one, prior planning can help you build a solid foundation for success.