The American family has gotten pretty complicated. Two in five marriages are remarriages, according to the Pew Research Center, and since 1980 the number of people who have been married more than once has nearly doubled. That means we have many more step-parents, half-siblings, and step-nieces than ever before.
Many of these big families are happy ones. But when the parents die, blended families can also be prone to fierce fights over money, especially if Stepdad or Stepmom was loaded.
This doesn’t prevent traditional families from fighting like cats and dogs. Still, split one fortune between three siblings and the math is relatively easy: Divide by three. It’s a lot harder to divide up multiple pools of money—with each parent having assets he or she collected before the marriage—between a gaggle of kids and stepkids whose ages sometimes span a generation.
A new survey by UBS Wealth Management shows just how challenging estate planning can be for wealthy blended families. UBS surveyed 2,715 affluent Americans, two-thirds of whom had at least $1 million to invest. Almost a third of blended families say there are conflicts among potential heirs, compared to 12 percent for traditional families.