Gone are the days when a couple married during their early 20s, welcomed and raised children together and lived out the rest of their lives together. Today, with the U.S. divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, familial structures within the U.S. are more complex than ever. Adding to the confusion are the estimated 42 million U.S. adults who report being married two or more times.

In terms of estate planning, remarriages and blended families can create many challenging situations. This is often true for both a parent who plans to remarry as well as his or her children from a previous marriage. Thankfully, through smart and thoughtful estate planning, an individual can take steps to both provide for the financial security of a surviving spouse as well as one’s biological children.

By establishing and funding a qualified terminable interest property trust or QTIP trust, an individual who plans to remarry can provide a lifetime income stream for his or her new spouse. Additionally, via a QTIP trust, an individual can ensure that, in the event a widowed spouse remarries, that the trusts’ assets are not inherited by that new spouse or a new spouse’s children.

In order to qualify for a QTIP trust, an individual’s spouse must be a U.S. citizen, be the sole beneficiary of the trust, receive at least one distribution payment per year and have no control over the trust’s assets. Assuming these conditions are met, upon a widowed spouse’s death, any assets remaining in the QTIP trust are distributed per the trust creator’s directives. In the case where a trust creator had children from a previous marriage, he or she may name each child as secondary beneficiaries who would then receive distributions upon a step-parent’s death.

As with all estate planning matters trusts, and specifically those set up to shield assets in the event of remarriage, are complex. It’s important, therefore to consult with an attorney.

Source: Nasdaq, “Cut Taxes, Send Assets To Loved Ones After Your Death,” Sept. 4, 2015