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Estate Planning for Blended Families

Estate Planning for Blended Families

We know when we die we will leave all the property or wealth we have accumulated behind.  It is important for you to take the steps necessary to ensure the people you want to be in charge of distributing your property get the job with the ability to distribute your property the way you want.  This is what estate planning is all about.

Estate planning is more complex if during your lifetime, you have had more than one life partner or spouse, and your current spouse is not the parent of all your children or perhaps even on the parent of any of your children.  The complexity of this issue deepens if your current spouse has children of his or her own from a previous relationship who you have not adopted.  If you want to ensure that both your spouse and your children are provided for, extra care is needed to ensure your estate planning objectives are met.

Family Law Kelowna: Blend Family Estate Planning

Blended family estate planning concerns arise for a number of reasons.   One reason is that a surviving spouse or child has the ability to have a Court review the distribution of your estate under your Will.  If the Court is convinced your Will does not adequately provide for them, the Court can change the distribution of your Will to do what the Judge thinks you ought to have done.  If you want all your wealth to pass under a Will to your surviving spouse, your children are not provided for at all. With this distribution and they can challenge your Will distribution in court. If your plan is that your children are to be beneficiaries of your spouse’s estate or if your estate plan involves your children waiting for your surviving spouse to die and then leave them with whatever is left at that time, it may be necessary for your children to take legal steps immediately after you die to get their fair share of your estate right away.  If they wait, it may be too late to protect themselves.

If your surviving spouse is also the parent of your children, this issue is usually not a problem.  If however, your surviving spouse is not a legal or biological parent of your children, leaving all your property to your surviving spouse can put your children at risk because your surviving spouse can change his or her estate plan to disinherit your children.  Many stepchildren have been disappointed to learn that a step parent chose to disinherit them and there is nothing they can do about it because their parent didn’t do the things necessary for them to do so.  People can change their mind and they can even inadvertently do something contrary to what they intended to do.  This can happen without notice to anyone and without leaving your children with any legal remedy.  If you believe your spouse would never do this, you are probably right, but you could also be wrong.

Wills and Estates Planning: Addressing Concerns

These concerns can be addressed with proper planning.  Options include dividing your estate between your spouse and children upon your death, providing for your spouse using a spousal trust, or having a mutual Will agreement with your surviving spouse who agrees in writing to provide for your children upon the spouse’s death.  These tools can be used separately or in combination, and different steps can be taken with different types or classes of property to achieve your objectives.  There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each strategy you might choose.   What you can be sure of is keeping it simple when your situation is not simple, will increase the chance of trouble and disappointment for those you leave behind.

Roy Sommery is a business, real estate & lending transactions and will & estate planning lawyer at Doak Shirreff Lawyers LLP. Roy can be reached at [email protected] or 250-979-2528.