Estate Planning for Blended Families in Orange County

The stigma of divorce has decreased over the years, leading to an increase in second and third marriages and blended families. When it comes to estate planning, these families have special needs and concerns that should and can be directly addressed with effective estate planning services. 

If you have a blended family, you may be wondering what type of estate planning issues will be affected by your family’s circumstances. OC Wills & Trust Attorneys work closely with blended families in Orange County and accomplishes the estate planning goals they need. Contact our team for a consultation today. 

Blended Families

The term “blended families” refers to new families or family structures consisting of children from prior marriages or relationships. For example, if a parent remarries after a divorce, the new family will be a blended family. 

Because blended families deal with non-biological children and parents, tricky inheritance issues arise. To address these issues, heads of these families are strongly advised to seek estate planning help from an experienced attorney.

Issues Your Estate Planning Attorney Will Address

If you are living in a blended family, there are various inheritance and estate issues you should be aware of. Addressing these concerns with effective estate planning services will protect your assets, your loved ones, and the future of both. 


Stepchildren become integral parts of newly formed families. Yet, California law does not confer the right to inheritance to stepchildren. If someone passes away without a will or other estate planning documents, the stepchildren will not be in line to receive any portion of the estate. 

There is a limited exception, however, if the stepchild:

  • Has lived with the stepparent since the age of minority
  • Would have been adopted by the stepparent but for a legal impediment

Without this exception, it falls upon the parents to take legal action to ensure their stepchildren take part in their estate. If you have stepchildren, an estate planning attorney can help you ensure that they are provided for. 

Separate Property

California classifies marital property as community property. This means that all property acquired during marriage equally belongs to both parties. If a spouse dies, all of the property goes to the other spouse, regardless of wills and other documents. 

Separate property, on the other hand, refers to property and assets acquired outside of marriage, either before or after. It may also apply to inheritances.

The problem arises when separate and community assets or funds are mixed or “co-mingled.” A house paid for with separate and community funds can raise disputes in blended families relating to the inheritability of the house. Remember that only the spouse can inherit community property.  

Prior Agreements and Judgments

Agreements and family law judgments have the power to control a parent’s funds and assets. A parent cannot leave separate property to a stepchild or adopted child if that property is subject to another agreement. 

For instance, a prenuptial agreement may have provisions leaving one spouse separate property upon the death of the other spouse. This separate property cannot later be assigned to a stepchild in a will because the prenup, if valid, trumps the will assignment. Divorce decrees also trump will assignments.

While working on your estate, your attorney will work meticulously to identify any prior agreements and judgments to ensure that you are secure in the choices you make for your blended or non-traditional family. 

Options for Blended Families

Blended families have numerous options to ensure that all members of the family are taken into account when a parent passes away. 


Joint trusts are an effective estate planning tool but present many issues when it comes to blended families. When one parent of a blended family dies, and a revocable joint trust is in place, the surviving parent gains total control over the trust and can easily cut out the non-biological children. This is not an issue when the children belong to both parents.  

An experienced estate planning attorney can address this issue by designing the trust in ways to prevent a non-biological child from being excluded later. They might also suggest separate trusts funded by each spouse’s unencumbered separate property. 

Other Options

Blended families have various other options to provide for step and non-biological children, including life insurance policies and pay-on-death (POD) accounts. Life insurance policies are exempt from probate and are payable to the designated beneficiary.

POD accounts are also not subject to probate and transfer immediately to the designated beneficiary. Accounts may include bank accounts and brokerage accounts.

Contact OC Wills & Trust Attorneys Today

Blended families typically have more concerns than other families. These concerns should be reflected in the estate planning services you receive. OC Wills & Trust Attorneys uses traditional and innovative legal solutions to protect our unique clients. For a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney who cares, call today!