Some estates are straightforward matters where the spouses married, had a single child and lived a comfortable life. With the divorce rate hovering at 50%, it is just as likely that a parent drafting an estate plan, will or trust is part of a blended family that involves a second (or third) spouse, biological children, stepchildren, and likely grandchildren.
Many like to think that their family dynamic is a harmonious one, but that may not be the case, nor should the parent assume it will remain that way after their death. Individuals and couples drafting an estate plan serve the best interests of the entire family when they try to be realistic about the circumstances and address all foreseeable issues.
Matters to consider
Many with complicated estates and blended families find it useful to work with an attorney with experience handling these issues and others yet to be considered. It starts by realistically evaluating the situation:
- Make a plan: It is a tremendous burden to leave a spouse or family members to try to guess the intentions of the decedent. It may also be a mistake financially if plans are not in place to pass assets to loved ones in an effective manner that avoids overpaying taxes or other expenses.
- Create a trust for the final spouse: This enables a spouse to live comfortably while ensuring that assets go where you wish after their passing.
- Pick the right executor or trustee: Spouses or children may not be capable or interested in managing an estate, addressing legal and familial disputes or handling the paperwork involved in probate.
- Plan for remarriage: A spouse may be younger or wish to remarry, which can complicate financial matters if a will or trust does not address it.
- Passing along assets: Passing assets like a business or some other parts of the estate may make sense even when there is a surviving spouse.
- Choose someone to make healthcare decisions: It is a fact that many are unable to make informed decisions about their healthcare because they become incapacitated. Pick someone able to address these difficult decisions with directives provided by the parent.
- Do not keep your plans a secret: Some may not feel comfortable discussing plans or financial arrangements with family, but preparing loved ones can serve them well later on.
- Update the plan: It is occasionally necessary to make changes to ensure the effectiveness of the plan.
It starts with a conversation
Knowledgeable estate law attorneys can sit down and discuss the needs and goals of a parent with a blended family while ensuring that the will, trust or plan is workable under Florida law. They can also work with the family after death to provide a neutral perspective when disputes arise, or legal guidance is needed.