Blended families are families where one or both spouses have children by a previous marriage. Typically, parties want to provide for each other and also for their children of prior marriages. The situation becomes even more interesting when the children are “his, hers and ours.”
Estate planning for these blended families can be tricky in the best of times. However, more complex is sues arise when the blended family faces chronic illness by one of the spouses. Cost of care for the disabled spouse may extend well be yond that spouse’s means. In determining Medicaid eligibility, Florida does not consider nuptial agree ments, whether they were made before or after a mar riage. The Veterans Admin istration also does not rec ognize nuptial agreements. The well spouse may end up at risk for the cost of the ill or disabled spouse’s high cost of care or consider the prospect of dissolving the marriage to protect his/her life savings. Appropriate planning can avoid these results.
Sometimes blended fami lies avoid facing the reality of the situation because it is difficult to deal with the problems created by the various family factions. If the chronic illness is de mentia, the family may wait so long that it is too late to make appropriate asset pro tection planning changes to documents. When this happens the family experi ences greater stress (both financially and emotionally) as the nest egg is unneces sarily depleted.
Another issue critical to blended families is naming the appropriate person to make decisions in the event of incapacity. In a blended family situation, naming the appropriate person to make decisions not only means naming a person who is able to make good decisions, but who can also play the dip lomat and peacekeeper. In a blended family situation, this may mean naming a child of one of the spouses, but sometimes in these situations the best person may not be a child at all. It is important for the family to critically consider this is sue, because naming a child without the necessary dip lomatic aplomb can tear a family apart.
Sometimes problems in the blended family arise, not about financial decision making, but instead about health-care decision-mak ing. I have seen many fami lies resort to guardianship because the children are critical (sometimes justifi ably) about the care that is being provided by the spouse. Not all problems can be avoided by plan ning, but the more a family discusses potential issues when chronic conditions first arise, the more likely the family will be able to weather the problems with relationships intact.
While having appropriate legal documents is a critical piece when planning for long-term care, documents alone do not resolve the problems that families face when planning for chronic illness. The problem tran scends the legal, financial and medical realms. Ap propriate counsel and advo cacy in all of these realms provide peace of mind to families struggling with the long-term care maze.
Jill Burzynski is the only board-certified elder law at torney in Naples. Reach her at (239) 434-8557 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To have any of the Burzynski Elder Law team speak to your group, call Angela at Burzynski Elder Law.