In the United States approximately 40% of all married couples include a spouse who was married at least once before. The growing number of blended families has added complexity to all aspects of personal and professional life throughout the country. Adults must consider the needs of their current spouse while also remembering their responsibilities to children or investments tied to their previous marriage. One of the most complicated aspects of living with a blended family is estate planning. There are potential problems for blended families that you should discuss with your new spouse prior to starting your estate planning journey.

Inheritance Surprises

Having a large numbers of potential heirs often increases the chances of someone being surprised by the contents of a will. A person with one spouse and children or heirs who are only tied to that relationship is more likely to leave property or assets to that spouse, children, or known heirs.  Once a person remarries, there is a chance that he or she will name the new spouse, step-children, in-laws, and new friends in the will in addition to children from a previous marriage. The chances of parties being surprised by the contents of your will increase.


After being unpleasantly surprised by the contents of a will, it is possible that heirs will dispute the entire will. In 2009, multi-billionaire Richard Pratt passed away leaving a concise will that should have addressed all of his final wishes and provided for his heirs. Unfortunately, things did not go as smoothly as Pratt’s immediate family might have wished. The will was disputed by two of the billionaire’s former mistresses, one of whom had an illegitimate child who Pratt fathered.  It took over six years for the disputes to be resolved and the estate was forced to pay the additional heirs a multi-million-dollar settlement. While not everyone is leaving behind such a large estate, spending years in court settling estate disputes is not something anyone would wish on their heirs.

Long-Term Issues

No matter how an estate is divided and disputes are resolved, members of your blended family may be left with bad feelings regarding the distribution of your assets. That may seem like a minor complaint, but it could lead to serious problems in the future, especially if your second spouse or children need the support of other family members during medical or financial emergencies. The issues caused by an estate plan that causes a rift within a blended family could even affect how the will of another family member is viewed.

Avoid the Problems

Each family is different, but every family benefits from the advice and guidance of an estate planning attorney. A qualified attorney can review your assets, family dynamic, and personal wishes before helping you come up with an estate plan that is best suited for your needs. The team at MMZ Law is standing by to provide you with the legal representation you deserve while navigating a potentially volatile situation. Contact us today and schedule an initial consultation at our conveniently located Claremont, California office.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.