In the modern tapestry of family life, blended families where individuals with children from previous relationships come together to form new households are a common aspect of our society.

Crafting a will for a blended family requires thoughtful consideration and careful navigation of the family and financial dynamics that have come together to form a new family unit.

Acknowledge the complexity

Blended families often come with complex relationships and financial arrangements. There may be assets acquired before the current relationship such as property, investments or family heirlooms that need to be accounted for.

Making provision for the spouse or partner

One of the primary considerations of clients is to ensure that their new partner is provided for without compromising the future inheritance of their own children. This may involve considering the incorporation of life interest trusts within their respective wills to ensure that whilst the spouse or partner can still enjoy the benefit of an asset (i.e. live in a property) a trust will ensure that the ultimate beneficiaries can be clearly specified to inherit after the spouse or partner has passed away.

Here’s a case study to explain further:

Mr Smith is married to Mrs Smith and Mrs Smith has a child from a previous relationship called Clare. Mr Smith and Mrs Smith also have a child together called Tom.

If Mrs Smith died first leaving everything to Mr Smith in her will, Mr Smith could then change his will and decide not to leave anything to Mrs Smith’s child after he dies. Another issue that could arise is that Mr Smith decides to re-marry. In doing so he has unintentionally revoked his former will and now his new spouse will be entitled to the first £322,000 of the overall estate and half of anything over that amount. Mrs Smith’s son Tom would be entitled to the other half. This could potentially leave Mrs Smiths child Clare with nothing.

Alternatively, Mrs Smith could have directed in her will that her most valuable asset (her share of the house) will go into a life interest trust via her will. This could initially benefit Mr Smith as the ‘life tenant’ providing him with security of tenure and then on Mr Smiths death, Mrs Smiths share will pass to her pre-defined beneficiaries. This means that even if Mr Smith changes his will after Mrs Smiths death or if he goes on to re-marry, Mrs Smith’s share will always pass to her defined beneficiaries.

Blended families

Consideration for children

Needless to say, it’s important to clearly articulate and define who any beneficiaries should be. It may be that clients choose to divide their assets equally between all children regardless of their biological relationship or specify specific shares to each individual child.

IHT considerations

Families need to be aware of their overall inheritance tax position after one or both deaths with particular regard to the Residence Nil Rate Band allowance, especially if they are unmarried. Remember, RNRB can only be claimed where the estate is left to ‘direct lineal descendants’ i.e. children, grandchildren or other descendant including the spouse or civil partner of a lineal descendent. A child includes a step-child by marriage, adopted child, foster child or child under a guardianship order. It does not include children of an unmarried partner, nephews, nieces or siblings.

Estate planning for blended families can be complex with legal and financial implications that require expert guidance and thorough consideration.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support your clients to navigate these complexities then do get in touch.

Call 01522 500823 or email enquiries@btwc.co.uk

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