In the 60’s tv sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” Mike and Carol Brady were the head of an iconic blended family, each bringing three of their own children into the marriage. As a goofy estate planning attorney, I was always curious about what their estate plan looked like (Not really, but it makes for a good article).
Like most married couples, Mike and Carol Brady have wills prepared, which leave all of their assets to the surviving spouse, meaning that if Mike Brady passed away first, then Carol Brady would inherit that fantastic mid-century home, the cars and all the financial accounts.
In this scenario, Mike is hoping that after his passing, Carol will treat all six children equally and not favor her own biological children over his.
But what happens if, slowly, over time, Mike’s kids grow apart from Carol after Mike’s death? Or what happens if Carol decides that she never really liked Mike’s children? Carol has every legal right to change her will and leave all of the marital estate to her three children, thus cutting out Mike’s three children from their father’s inheritance.
So, essentially everything that Mike earned while being an awesome architect would not benefit his biological kids as intended.
Since close to half of the United States families are a product of remarriage, it is critical to get a quality estate plan in place. A simple will is probably not going to protect your biological children as much as you may think.
Although I am not a huge fan of trusts, you may want to consider a spousal trust. This type of trust will provide support during your spouse’s lifetime, and upon their death, the remaining balance would be distributed to your biological children.
If you decide to establish this type of trust, you will also need to select an experienced/ competent trustee. With this trust, there could be some tension between parties and the appointed trustee must be able to stay impartial, not favoring one party over another as they may need to officiate some disagreements between the parties.
Many blended families like to think of themselves as a modern version of the Brady Bunch. But, without a strong estate plan in place, the Brady Bunch can turn into a nightmare for your kids.
You can hope your spouse will treat your children as their own when the time comes, or you can put a plan in place to ensure your wishes are adhered to and your children’s interests are protected.
Paul B. Owens is an attorney practicing in the areas of Probate and Estate Planning law. He serves in a number of other capacities, including on the Board of Directors for the CASA Helotes Senior Center in Helotes Texas. He can be reached at his office in Helotes at 210-695-5110 or at www.PaulOwensLaw.com
Editor’s Note: An advertisement for Paul Owens Law appears in this issue of the paper.