Here are two trivia questions for you movie and television buffs. First, what big name Hollywood stars played on-screen spouses in the 1968 ﬁlm Yours, Mine & Ours? The basic storyline of the movie paired a widow and her eight children with a widower and his ten children. Second, a year later Sherwood Schwartz (creator of Gilligan’s Island) took the same basic storyline and rolled out a hit television series that ran for 117 episodes. Can you name that show? [The answers are at the end of this article.]
One reason commonly given for the popularity of these two classics is that they gave traditional nuclear families a lighthearted glimpse into the lives of blended families. Times have changed. In the new millennium, blended families now outnumber traditional nuclear families. And the number is likely to grow, based on current statistics and trends.
Unlike the movies or 30-minute sitcoms, real life is not always so lighthearted for blended families, whether due to widowhood or divorce. Many face unique social, psychological and economic challenges.
More than 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations and support groups dedicated to helping blended families with these challenges. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the critical Life & Estate Planning challenges confronting blended families. These challenges include disinheriting your ex-spouse, providing for your new spouse, and providing for your own children, and protecting their inheritance.
Without proper legal planning, your ex-spouse (as surviving parent/guardian) would likely be appointed by the probate court to manage the inheritance you leave to your children. To make matters worse, what if your children later predecease your ex-spouse, and are single and childless at that time? Who would inherit your assets then? That is right … your ex-spouse, as the next-of-kin of your children.
Your New Spouse
Chances are you made a few solemn promises to your new spouse on your wedding day. Among them were promises to be there through thick and thin, personally and ﬁnancially. Accordingly, most spouses in blended families tend to blend their wealth, too.
Warning: If you predecease your new spouse, then you may forever disinherit your own children from your share of such blended wealth! Thereafter, upon the death of your new spouse, your assets may be inherited by your stepchildren, or even by your new spouse’s next spouse and their children.
Your Own Children
Whether children are reared in a traditional nuclear family or in a blended family, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. Wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered in very short order, or can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits or bankruptcies.
Want to make your estate plan “heir” tight? If so, you should consider the Inheritance Shield™, a part of the IEP Legal Life™ Plan. The Inheritance Shield™ creates a trust that makes distributions only in the sole and absolute discretion of the Trustee. The key to a success is selecting and entrusting an appropriate Trustee with broad discretionary authority to protect your wealth for and from your heirs.
The non-ﬁduciary position of Trust Protector can be created to appoint and even remove such a Trustee to ensure fulﬁllment of your objectives. As such, the Trust Protector serves as an ongoing Guardian Angel.
This has been a very cursory examination of a very complex subject. Give us a call before you pursue any ﬁnancial or legal strategy to overcome blended family challenges. We'll help make sure you have the plan you need to protect the people you love.
First answer: Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.
Second answer: The Brady Bunch, of course!