Estate Planning for the Modern Family

In a time when the traditional nuclear family has shifted to a more complex structure with multiple marriages, step-children, half-children, common law marriages and cohabitation, and same-sex couples, keeping an estate plan up to date with life's constant changes can be a challenge.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, blended families which consist of a couple and their children from all relationships, now outnumber traditional nuclear families. Because your estate is comprised of everything you own, from finances, to real estate, to your car and personal possessions, it is important for everyone to plan for what will happen to their things in the event of their death.

While estate planning is underutilized in all types of family structures, it is especially crucial for the modern, blended family. Without a complete estate plan, a surviving spouse could become the sole beneficiary of all assets, and custodial parent of all children involved in the marriage, even step-children that he or she may not get along with. The most important aspect of estate planning is choosing the right executor, or the person to whom an individual grants to carry out his or her wishes. Especially in non-traditional families, it is crucial that the executor chosen is one who will be fair to beneficiaries and has no ulterior motives.

Experts recommend that today's families create a “global” estate plan, which incorporates outside documentation such as cohabitation agreements, all marriage contracts and separation agreements. Important and often controversial “hot-button” issues that families generally like to sidestep, must be addressed in a comprehensive estate plan. These types of issues may pertain to extramarital relationships and children born outside of wedlock. Creating a complete plan that addresses all of these issues can deter lengthy litigation, and the chance of people disputing estates or avoiding claims against estates.

This era's modern families not only see complications in their personal and familial relationships, but in their finances. Complex finances that are not fully addressed in estate plans can cause the entire plans to crumble. When assets are mixed among the many individuals in a person's life, there is a greater chance of a person or persons challenging the will, and leading the family down the long road of litigation. Individuals in blended families need to make sure that all of their bases are covered, and that all investments, assets and finances are accounted for.

Estate planning is a complex process, especially in non-traditional family units. Seeking the professional assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney can maximize the benefits to yourself and loved ones, and ensure that all of your documents and wishes are in order.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A.
Douglas A. Oberdorfer has a sparkling record for helping families, couples and individuals secure their finances, real property, digital assets, and related estate items with efficient estate planning. Mr. Oberdorfer can help you and yours stay out of probate court, protect your will and distribute your assets in the matter you see fit.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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