Bonus Family? Why a blended family needs a will

12th January

It is increasingly common for couples to marry while one or both have children from a previous relationship, and the couple may then go on to have children of their own. The Swedish drama on Netflix Bonus Family provides a light-hearted exploration of the complexities of joining two families together, highlighting the emotional and logistical challenges.

Family pic nic

All families have their challenges but, inheritance and estate planning can be particularly problematic for blended families. However, as Dee Benians in the private client team in Heathfield, East Sussex, explains, having a valid will can really help in this respect.

She says: “It is natural for you to want to ensure that your partner and all the children of your blended family are looked after when you die, while perhaps still wishing to ensure that some of the assets you brought to the marriage are safeguarded for your own children.

“However if you die without leaving a will you are said to have died intestate and strict legal rules apply as to who gets what after your death. This may mean that your money, property and possessions will not be distributed according to your wishes and could result in your children being disinherited altogether.

“For example, if you died intestate and the value of your estate was below the statutory legacy limit of £270,000 then all your estate would pass to your new spouse. If your surviving spouse then died without leaving a will, all your combined assets would pass to their children and your own children would receive no benefit from the combined estate.”

For estates over £270,000 your surviving spouse would receive all of your personal possessions, the statutory legacy of £270,000 (tax free) and half of your remaining assets left over and above the statutory legacy limit.  Your children would receive the remaining half of your estate.

In today’s modern society these rules are arbitrary and do not properly take people’s needs into account. It is worth pointing out that apart from some modest revisions, the intestacy rules have remained largely unchanged since they were drawn up almost 100 years ago in 1925.

Even if you do decide to have a will drawn up, you need to be careful about the type of will you leave. Many couples, for example, opt for mirror wills which pass everything to the other spouse on death and then everything onto all your combined children on the second spouse’s death.

There are a number of potential problems with such wills for blended families, including:

  • your spouse could change their will after you die, leaving everything to their own children;
  • if they remarry, the original will would be automatically revoked;
  • this option would not allow you to secure any assets you brought to the marriage for the benefit your own children;
  • the assets could shrink over time, if for example your spouse goes into long-term care, leaving less for the children to inherit.

A better option is to have our lawyers draft a bespoke will which bequeaths specific gifts to your children or to draw up a will trust.

There are a number of different types of trusts, but for a blended family a life interest trust is often the most popular. This allows you to state in your will that your spouse is to benefit from assets or income from the estate during their lifetime, with the trust property then passing to the beneficiaries of your choice after they die.

People in which you have confidence can be appointed to administer the trust, and you can choose which assets form part of the trust, who you want the beneficiaries to be and when the trust comes to an end.

How a solicitor can help

Solicitors at Hughes Law who specialise in wills and trusts will ensure your will is drawn up and structured in a way that both reflects your wishes and caters for the needs of all of your loved ones.

Dee Benians

They will talk you through the various options – and the tax implications of each – and then make sure your will is legally valid and clear in its intent, making it much less open to a legal challenge.

They will also help you to choose appropriate executors, trustees and guardians. Hughes Law can also store the will for you to help alleviate the stress for loved ones of finding your will when you pass away.

For more information, please contact our private client team on 01435 890 101 or email Dee Benians at

This article courtesy of Hughes Law is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published.