Spouses who get remarried and create blended families face a number of unique challenges, including financial issues. Failure to talk about these challenges openly and honestly and plan for how to deal with them may lead to some serious family problems down the road.
Therefore, it’s often a good idea to sit down with your future spouse and a trusted financial advisor before you walk down the aisle to discuss these challenges and possible solutions. Below are 5 areas that Frontier believes you might consider addressing:
- Your current financial situation and goals for the future
Each of you will probably enter the marriage with some assets and perhaps some debts and liabilities. It’s critical to lay all of these cards out on the table so there are no surprises after you take your wedding vows. This is particularly true when it comes to debt, which can become a serious financial strain on any marriage, but especially a marriage that creates a blended family.
Also discuss each of your financial hopes, goals and dreams for the future. They probably won’t be exactly the same — this is fine, but you should know this going into the marriage so you can plan accordingly. For example, if one of you desires to return to college to continue your education one day, you’ll need to plan out your careers and other financial obligations in order to make this happen.
- Financial obligations each of you have to your former spouses
These kinds of financial obligations typically include alimony, child support and custody arrangements. One or both of you might also be legally required to maintain your former spouse as a life insurance or retirement account beneficiary.
Such obligations could have a big impact on the finances of your blended family after you get married, so it’s important to discuss them ahead of time. Otherwise, they could lead to disagreements and friction in the marriage if one of you feels like the other’s former spousal obligations are holding the family back financially.
- Commingling and titling of your assets after you get married
You should carefully plan whether the separate assets each of you bring into the marriage will be combined together or kept separate. These decisions could have serious legal consequences for your new marriage and blended family so you want to make sure the structuring and titling of assets is done deliberately.
For example, if assets (such as a home or investment accounts) are titled “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” then they will pass directly to the surviving owner when one spouse dies. But if assets are titled “transfer on death,” they will pass directly to whoever is named the beneficiary. Therefore, make sure beneficiaries are correctly designated on all of your assets.
- Estate planning and the need for a prenuptial agreement
If each of you has an existing estate plan, the plans will likely need to be revised to reflect the needs of your new blended family. Trusts are often used in blended families to segregate assets from previous marriages and ensure that they are passed on as each of you wishes. Your wills can dictate that each of your assets be directed into separate trusts: one for the children from your previous marriage and the other for your new spouse and the children of your new marriage.
Though it can be a sensitive area, you should also talk about whether each of you should sign a prenup before getting married that would waive rights to parts of each other’s estate. If you’re not comfortable with a prenup, you might consider utilizing a Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT) that can help shield assets in the event of a divorce.
- Eligibility for future benefits
If either of you is receiving Social Security or survivors benefits from a former spouse, you could lose these benefits after getting remarried. The same goes for pension rights if either of you is a widow or widower of a public employee or member of the military who was killed in duty.
Please contact us if you have more questions about financial planning for your blended family.