Talk With Your Family

With the divorce rate in the United States hovering around 45%, it is likely that you or your spouse have been, or will be, involved in multiple marriages. And since this may mean that one or both of you may have children from a previous marriage, you might be wondering what it should look like to plan for their future inheritance.

When estate planning, it is important to know how to write a will when you have children from previous marriages. The first thing to do is to talk with your current spouse, and perhaps your ex-spouse about your goals for your children (and your stepchildren!) You may be able to make these decisions together.

Look at any financial or existing contractual obligations you currently have, decide on guardianship, and consider any support you might want to provide for your biological or step children. If you have previous contracts in place with a prior divorce, you may be limited in how you can structure your will as to the current spouse, new children or stepchildren.

Related: Second Marriages and Estate Planning: 5 Things You May Not Have Considered

Write Your Will In Such A Way That It Protects All Your Children

People often design their will to leave all their assets to the surviving spouse, with instructions on how to divide up the estate among the children or other designated beneficiaries. While this works sometimes, the best way to write a will when you have children from previous marriages is to be specific about what and when each of your children will inherit, with each child listed by name. 

Keep in mind that if you create a will where you and your current spouse own all assets jointly, if you die and the spouse inherits all, you may inadvertently disinherit children from a previous marriage since the new spouse has the power to decide who inherits once they die.

As you carefully think through how to write your will to include your children from a previous marriage and your current marriage, you should consider also that how you distribute your assets can have repercussions within the family. We’ve seen hard feelings arise within families many times due to how people plan their estates. In the end, your money and your possessions are yours to distribute as you see fit. But if you leave the majority of your estate to the children of your current marriage, and little to the children of a previous marriage, or to the stepchildren, your family may struggle with interpersonal tensions. 

Related: The second time around

Choose From 3 Methods for How to Write a Will When You Have Children From Previous Marriages

  1.       Simple wills. When each spouse trusts the other to carry out their wishes, you can leave your entire estate to your spouse with the understanding that when you die, they will distribute your property as you agreed to, including to children from previous marriages.
  2.       Trusts. With a second or subsequent marriage, assets are often co-mingled, so consider creating a trust that designates who will receive your assets and when. You may want to set it up so that your spouse can use the trust for their daily living needs, and when they die, the remaining assets are divided up according to your wishes. You can also create a minor’s trust, which will safeguard your inheritance for your children until they reach an age of your choosing.
  3.       Immediate Distribution. You can choose to have your assets immediately distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries upon your death. However, before you decide to go with immediate distribution, consider that your current spouse may need your assets to cover their own living expenses after you pass away.

Related: Protecting children’s inheritance in a second marriage

The Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer

When you want to know how to write a will when you have children from previous marriages, come talk to the Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer. We can help answer questions and create the legal documents that will help protect you, your spouse, and your children. If you live in the Northern Shenandoah Valley or Northern Virginia, consider us your family’s estate planning attorney. Contact us today.