If you’ve been pondering how to best organize your estate, you know that there is a lot to think about. Beyond designing a will, you ought to consider setting up a living trust, filing power-of-attorney documents, organizing bond or stock certificates, and researching state-specific tax legislation. In addition, it is critical to engage beneficiaries in thoughtful, caring conversation so as to avoid potential conflicts you won’t be around to mediate. This final detail may be the most important and yet, in a world where blended families are increasingly the norm, such conversations are not straightforward affairs—no pun intended.
It is no fun to think about whether a stepparent or new spouse will treat his or her stepchildren with as much consideration as their own biological offspring, and it is even less fun to try and express this concern. Nonetheless, as with all of life’s major hurdles, head-on is a better approach than head-in-the-sand. Accordingly, what follows are some details you might consider when broaching this challenging subject.
A simple will won’t suffice.
You likely did not anticipate the form your family would take when you were young. Likewise, unforeseeable changes may arise after you are gone. A traditional “I love you” will, where all assets are left to the surviving spouse, will not shield your estate from such unknowns.
An alternative to the simple will is the creation of a trust dictating that assets will be left to your spouse for their lifetime, with the balance passing to your children upon his or her passing. This guarantees that all of your loved ones will be well taken care of, regardless of shifting future circumstances.
Get professional help with your finances and estate.
A trust does not resolve the issue of how your assets will be managed as they change hands. For this, you will want to employ an experienced financial or estate manager. Removing the burden of properly investing your legacy from your spouse and children resolves any potential conflicts of interest or opinion, which is of inestimable value.
Consider the possibility of remarriage.
As you chart your path through this delicate territory, it’s important to consider that your spouse may remarry. As hard a pill as this may be to swallow, it is important to be realistic when organizing your estate. If you and your spouse were open to building a blended family, it is reasonable to suppose circumstances could continue to blend in your absence. Indeed, most of us would want our loved ones to continue to find love if we are not around to provide it ourselves.
Your medical power of attorney should require deep thought.
Think long and hard about who will make healthcare decisions in the event you are incapacitated. As legislation catches up to contemporary family structures, it is still the norm for most states to only permit one person to be assigned medical power of attorney. Choosing who this will be is fraught with complication, and merits a thoughtful conversation with all involved.
The bottom line is that building a blended family takes time, care, and well-developed communication skills. Keeping such a family together as lives end requires these same skills…and a little bit of extra know-how.
Contact Deliberato Law Center
If you need some estate planning guidance—whether your family is blended or not—Deliberato Law Center is here to help. Our highly experienced team of estate planning and elder law attorneys can answer whatever questions you have. Request a free consultation with our team and start securing your legacy today.