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Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is estimated that approximately 1,300 new stepfamilies are created every day in the United States. While proper estate planning is important for everyone, individuals who have a blended family should take special care to ensure that their estate plans reflect their wishes and provide for beneficiaries.  Whether your family includes stepparents and stepchildren, adopted children, half-siblings, or grandchildren, having a comprehensive estate plan is essential. If you are in a blended family, there are special estate planning considerations that may apply to your situation that you may be unaware of.  

Complications Regarding Remarriages and Children from a Previous Marriage

A large percentage of U.S. adults are on their second or third marriages. If you have remarried and you have children from a previous relationship, you should be aware of the way Illinois intestate succession laws operate. If a person dies without a valid will or other estate planning document, his or her assets are distributed according to state law. In Illinois, the laws of intestate succession would split your estate between your current spouse and your children. Such laws, however, do not specify which of your assets will go to your children. This means that if you want your children from a previous relationship to inherit certain items—including family heirlooms or other things with sentimental value, you will need to create a will or trust to do so.

One major mistake many people make when they get remarried is forgetting to change the primary beneficiary from their previous spouse to their current spouse. If you have remarried but your have children from a past relationship, you may want to consider naming your new spouse and your biological children as primary beneficiaries. This would allow each of these individuals to receive a portion of your estate when you pass away. Another option is to create a revocable trust that assigns assets to your spouse during his or her lifetime but then passes the remaining trust balance to your children upon your spouse’s death.

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Wheaton family law attorney stepchild

The United States is a nation in which a majority of families are divorced. However, many people find love again and choose to remarry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day. Becoming a stepparent can be stressful and intimidating. However, with realistic expectations and a certain approach to building a relationship, a sustaining bond can be created. In some cases, a stepparent may even wish to legally adopt his or her stepchild. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney assist you throughout the legal process.

Blended Families 

A remarriage often involves more than just a couple. One or both parents may have children from their previous marriages or relationships. If you are getting remarried after a divorce, and you will have a stepchild, keep these tips in mind for a smoother transition for everyone involved:

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DuPage County stepparent adoption attorneyBecoming a step-parent can be an overwhelming life change, whether you have biological children of your own or not. Approximately 40 percent of American families are blended families, making stepparenting a common occurrence. It can be a challenge to balance the desire to befriend your spouse’s child and earn their affection with the need to parent them when the time comes. Many stepparents form strong bonds with their stepchildren, and they should be sure to understand their rights and legal obligations both during their marriage and if divorce ever enters the picture. 

Throughout the Marriage

  • Discipline: Many stepparents leave discipline to their spouse, especially when they first join the family, but as time goes on, more and more responsibility can get placed in their hands. It is important to have a conversation with your spouse about parenting expectations. Though it may not feel like it, you must remember that discipline is intended to benefit the child, and as a parent, the child’s safety should be your first priority.
  • Education: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), stepparents are allowed to receive and review their stepchildren’s school records. FERPA defines a parent as "an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian,” thus giving stepparents educational rights in regards to their stepchild.
  • Traveling: There is no law stating that stepchildren and stepparents cannot travel alone together; however, it is important to have both biological parents’ permission, unless the stepparent has adopted the stepchild and become their legal parent. There are also consent forms that can be signed to ensure no legal action is taken against the stepparent.

After Divorce

  • Custody/Visitation: Stepparents and stepchildren often share relationships similar to biological parents and their children, especially when this relationship existed for most of the child’s life. If the biological parent decides that the stepparent cannot have visitation rights after divorce, there is often not much that a court can do, unless the stepparent has formally adopted the stepchild. Once the divorce is finalized, a stepparent will lack the biological and legal ties to the child that guarantee parental rights. A stepparent does typically have the right to request visitation, but the court may not grant visitation rights.
  • Solidifying Legal Rights: The only way to ensure legal rights of the child is through adoption. Many stepparents decide to adopt their stepchild, especially if the child’s other biological parent is no longer in the picture. It is easier to adopt the child before divorce, because the biological parents’ permission is required for an adoption.

Contact a Lombard Adoption and Divorce Attorney

Blending families and learning to be a good stepparent can be challenging tasks. Stepchildren often feel like one’s own children, and the possibility of losing the connection with them after divorce can be unthinkable. Our DuPage County family law attorneys can help you address your legal concerns regarding adoption, divorce, or other issues regarding your stepchildren. Contact us at 630-426-0196.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIf you have recently decided that it is time to create an estate plan, congratulations! You are one vital step closer to preserving the financial future of your family. However, it is important to understand that, when it comes to estate plans, one size does not always fit all. In fact, using so-called “boilerplate” forms or documents could lead to devastating oversights, as there are many different situations that could require special consideration.

Special Needs Children and Adult Dependents

Children who have special needs are often entitled to government benefits to help ensure that their medical and daily care needs are met. In many cases, these benefits continue well into adulthood. Unfortunately, when parents, siblings, or other family members leave behind an improperly planned inheritance, the benefits available to a special needs individual could be placed at risk. Then, rather than enhancing their lives, the inheritance ends up being spent on their daily needs.

Parents and loved ones can avoid this risk by taking the time to speak with an attorney about the child’s specific needs. In many cases, a special needs trust could be appropriate to protect the heir’s best interests.

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Lombard family law attorneyAmerica is a nation built on second chances. Consider, for a moment, the number of high-profile incidents or embarrassments involving celebrities or public figures, and how many have gone on to even greater success and fame afterward. For many, love and marriage is not terribly different. Despite a failed first marriage, more couples than ever are willing to walk down the aisle again in the hopes of finding the permanent happiness that has, so far, eluded them. Remarriage, however, can be extremely challenging, as many couples beginning second or third marriages are bringing with them children from previous relationships. Finding the right balance between parent and friend is often difficult for new stepparents, but there are some things you should keep in mind to make the transition a little more comfortable for everyone involved.

Be Prepared

As you fell in love with your new spouse, you knew that he or she already had children. Thus, the process of becoming a healthy blended family probably began long before thoughts of marriage ever crossed your mind. During the dating process, it can be very easy to try to ignore your partner’s children and the potential impact on your relationship, but doing so is not very conducive to a future together. It is important, however, to start slow and not to impose yourself on an existing family dynamic in such a way that will be overly upsetting. Understand that you will probably feel like something of an outsider for a little while, because, in reality, that is just what you are. Over time, though, you will probably feel more included and more a part of the family than you ever thought possible.

Be Respectful

Whether you have children of your own or not, you need to keep in mind that every stepparent’s relationship with their stepchildren is different, and may even vary from child to child. For example, your spouse’s older child may have taken to you immediately, becoming affectionate and loving without much effort, while a younger child may be more stand-offish and need additional time to adjust. Neither reaction is necessarily right or wrong, but as long as it is honest, you should be understanding and respectful. If a child wants space, allow him or her to have it; if he or she wants love and support from you, offer it. A long-term future together can only be realistic if everyone remains open and truthful about their comfort and feelings.

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