Guiding You Through Life's Storms

Planning For Today’s Brady Bunch Families

by | Jun 18, 2024 | Estate Planning

As a kid I thoroughly enjoyed watching – and rewatching – episodes of The Brady Bunch.  I recently tried to watch an episode and found I could barely tolerate five minutes of the campy writing, terrible acting and the worst fake grass in the history of television.  This does not alter, however, my appreciation for the show’s attempt to address the family dynamics involved with blending two families into one.

Couples entering into blended marriages have to deal with numerous issues, not the least of which is the fear that upon the death of one spouse the surviving spouse will disinherit, whether intentional or not, the deceased spouse’s children.  This is not an unjustified fear, but it can be avoided if the blended couple crafts a comprehensive estate plan that provides for the surviving spouse and still ensures the deceased spouse’s children are provided an inheritance.  As part of a comprehensive estate plan the blended couple should consider using a Marital Agreement and/or a QTIP Trust.

Marital Agreements (commonly referred to as Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements) can reduce or eliminate each spouse’s marital rights to the assets of the other spouse.  Although people often dismiss Marital Agreements as draconian, when used as part of a comprehensive estate plan they can be powerful tools that promote family harmony.  Absent a Marital Agreement, even with careful planning the children of one spouse could end up with 30% to 50% of the other spouse’s estate through the exercise of elective share, family allowance or other statutory marital rights.

Blended couples should also consider establishing an estate plan that utilizes a QTIP Trust (“QTIP” is short for “Qualified Terminable Interest Property” as defined in the Internal Revenue Code).  A QTIP Trust is established upon the death of the first spouse and provides the surviving spouse with a regular stream of income plus distributions for the surviving spouse’s health and other basic needs if necessary.  What makes the QTIP Trust such a powerful tool for blended couples is that upon the death of the surviving spouse the assets of the QTIP Trust are distributed to the children of the first spouse that died and are not controlled or distributed as part of the second deceased spouse’s estate.

Let’s put this in perspective.  Mike and Carol each have three children (fyi…Carol’s youngest daughter has blonde curls).  Mike’s parents died and left him the family farm and other assets he wants his sons to receive, but Mike loves Carol and wants to be sure she is taken care of if he dies first.  Mike and Carol enter into a Marital Agreement wherein Carol waives her statutory rights to any of the property Mike inherited.  Mike then creates an estate plan that leaves the family farm and other inherited assets in a QTIP Trust for Carol’s benefit.  After Mike dies the QTIP Trust is created and thereafter distributes all the income generated to Carol plus it pays for her health insurance premiums and copays.  When Carol dies Mike’s three sons inherit all of the assets held in the QTIP Trust, whereas Carol’s daughters receive the assets of Carol’s estate.

The stresses placed on today’s Brady Bunch families are rarely solved with cliché parental advice or by having a member of The Monkeys show up at your door at just the right moment.  Instead, careful and practical estate planning can reduce the fear and mistrust that may otherwise exist and instead foster healthier relationships for all family members both during life and after death.

Above all, it’s important to talk with an experienced lawyer about your specific situation regarding estate planning for blended families in Florida. Contact Marshall Law at 352-619-0744 or send an email to schedule a complete review of your circumstances.