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Blended Families & Property: How to Protect Your Assets

With the following steps, any blended family can begin the journey towards protection and greater well-being.

protect your assets: blended family icons surrong heart with $ broken into father's colors and mother's colors

For any family, there are steps that you should take to protect your assets. In blended families – families composed of step-siblings and parents after a remarriage – asset protection can be all the more complicated. By protecting your assets, you are protecting all your family from potentially complex arguments and legal drama that might otherwise occur. Every blended family should take extra steps to define and defend their property and assets, making for smoother transitions both in the present and down the line.

How to Protect Your Assets in a Blended Family

With the following steps, any blended family can begin the journey towards protection and greater well-being.

1. Create an environment for civil, transparent discussion

A blended family is never simple. People are complex, and the relationships between them can create tension and drama that are not conducive to easy management of property and assets. This is why the first and best step you can take to protect your assets is to cultivate a family dynamic and household that lends itself to open, civil conversation. By communicating clearly with your loved ones about your wants, needs, and fears, you lay the groundwork for a less-complex situation in which motivations and desires are understood. For any step-parent entering a blended family, this approach will help navigate problems that arise.

2. Consider everyone’s needs

When blending a family and planning for the future, it is essential to consider the needs of the whole family. Protecting one’s assets means making the occasional compromise and understanding how separation, hardship, or loss of life can affect the blended family you build.  Respecting existing property ownership and inheritance lines may be your best strategy in avoiding potential disputes with children, former spouses, and your blended family. In the event your family situation or plans for your property change, you can always reassess your legal approach to protecting your assets. However, to best avoid conflicts, it helps to meet the expectations of family by following through on clearly laid-out intentions for property division. Often, this means the creation of a legal agreement, bringing us to step three.

3. Create a legal cohabitation or marriage agreement

How properties are acquired and divided both before and during a marriage affect how they are split in the event of a separation. Because of this, protecting the property rights of an individual is best done through marriage or cohabitation agreements.  During the pre-marriage stage of a relationship in which families are to be blended, it is highly recommended to craft a legal agreement stating the ownership of assets and the ways in which those assets are to be split in the event of separation or death. This agreement functions much like a will, and when properly drafted, can ever supersede a will. This is essential in protecting the needs of everyone in a blended family, guaranteeing property is divided as it rightfully should be, and keeping arguments to a minimum. Of course, you need to be open and clear about the existence and stipulations of such a document with the entire family. Setting realistic expectations is vital in reducing drama and conflict, so be open, honest, and clear about needs and legal agreements.

4. Plan for a lifetime

Within the course of your legal and needs-based planning, you must take into consideration a long lifetime and the challenges and problems that might be encountered throughout. An aging population of blended families across North America has demonstrated the many challenges in estate planning and division as they come into retirement and beyond. Setting plans in motion to deal with the realities of old age and death saves your family from the challenges of asset protection and fair division. Create a will and an estate plan in addition to whatever cohabitation or marital agreement might exist. Make sure to make the provisions within line up so that your family is not stuck with sorting out your intentions and motivations. Once again, you should make theses provisions clear to your family so that expectations are set and met, keeping drama to a minimum.

5. Protect your and your family’s private information

Finally, at all times, it is essential to guard your assets through the protection of your and your family’s personal information. A host of scammers and cybercriminals are out there, just waiting to encounter a vulnerable individual and make use of their data. Take control of your data and teach your family to do the same.  By reviewing the privacy information of all your agreements and managing your data wisely, you can protect your assets against identity theft and fraud. Keeping your assets safe means not putting yourself at undue risk. Your family will appreciate the protection, and without the additional challenges of fraudulent activity, lines of ownership and property division will be clearer in the event of separation or death.

Clarity and consideration keep your assets safe

When it comes to protecting your assets within a blended family, the best thing you can do is provide clarity and consideration for the needs of all involved. Often, this takes the form of a legally binding agreement that ensures the protection and division of property as needed. Supplementing that agreement with an environment of clear communication and careful planning will lend respect to your choices and reduce conflict within the family. While there is no guarantee against drama and challenges that can occur within a blended family in regards to assets, following these steps help you provide a safe and transparent environment in which your property can be maintained how you and your family desire.