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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Estate planning is critical to ensure that your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away or become incapacitated. But those with blended families often experience unique estate planning challenges. 

This is especially true when a blended family includes children, stepchildren, or grandchildren. It is important to speak with a seasoned Staten Island elder planning attorney to ensure the best outcome for the future.

Considerations for Estate Planning for Blended Families

A “blended family” typically refers to spouses who have children from prior marriages or relationships. Family structures can vary widely, and it is important to plan your estate according to your unique family dynamics. 

The process of planning an estate is not inherently different for those in blended families. However, most blended families have more individuals who need to be considered. 

It is a good idea to speak with your spouse about your specific wishes. A skilled attorney can help you build an estate plan that executes your desires faithfully. Different relationships within the family may require different legal documents and approaches.

Incorporating Family Members into an Estate Plan

When someone passes away without an estate plan in place, the state of New York decides what happens to their property and assets.  

The intestacy laws establish a priority for distributing property and assets after someone’s death. These statutes are based on relationships with surviving biological relatives. 

In New York, if you die without an estate plan, your assets will go to your spouse, biological children, or other close blood relatives. For those in blended families, this makes an estate plan critical.  

Some of the most common tools for guaranteeing that stepchildren receive assets and property following the death of an estate holder include:

Will and Testament

Some estate holders choose to name their stepchildren as executors of their will. This option allows you to leave a specific amount of money to your loved ones. 

You can also assign them a specific percentage of your estate’s total value. Speak with an elder planning lawyer about how to ensure your wishes are enacted.


Estate holders in blended families sometimes decide to name their stepchildren as beneficiaries of a trust. If you have stepchildren who are under the age of 18, you may want to set up a minor’s trust for them.  

By making the stepchildren beneficiaries of a trust, the estate holder can provide for them while protecting the interests of their own biological children. Trusts are also useful for avoiding the costly and time-consuming probate process.

Designating Beneficiaries

Some financial accounts can be transferred to other parties upon the death of the account holder. Examples include life insurance policies and retirement savings accounts. Rather than sending these assets through a will or trust, you may be able to name a beneficiary directly through the relevant institution.

Other Legal Possibilities for Estate Plans

No matter the nature of your relationship with your spouse and stepchildren, it is critical to plan your estate effectively. Some people want to ensure that their biological children receive the majority of their assets upon their passing. 

A skilled estate planning attorney will help you draft relevant documents to guarantee the execution of your wishes. Common estate planning documents in New York include:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Health care proxies
  • Living wills 

Having a flawlessly documented plan for your estate will give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of after you are gone.

Hire an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

The specific estate planning documents an individual needs will depend on their unique circumstances and goals. Consult with one of the knowledgeable Staten Island elder planning attorneys at the firm of Merlino & Gonzalez. Our seasoned team is here to help you build a reliable and legally robust estate plan to meet your needs.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.