are increasingly cobbling together new families out of earlier broken marriages
… Effective estate planning for these modern families, made up of past and
present marriages, requires a fair amount of finesse and family engagement, to
settle disagreements early on and to financially provide for both the current
spouse and the children from a previous marriage.
The “family tree” is a wonderful
little metaphor. More than that, however, the family tree is the basis of the
body of laws surrounding family, estates, and probate (with equal metaphorical
oomph, see “per stirpes”).
For better or for worse, the “modern
family” is not the same as the well-tended tree of former times, and those old
legal definitions just are not cutting it these days. For the modern family,
there simply has to be a bit more planning to get it right.
So, what is the modern family
and how do we even begin to get things right these days? That is an
ever-evolving ambiguity. Recently, Barron’s
Penta took a shot at the topic in a recent article titled “Estate Planning for Modern Families.”
Modern families are breaking
down boundaries and pulling “branches” together and apart too fast for the
legal system to figure it out. The original article appeals to the ABC show of
the same name, Modern Family. However,
a healthy jumping off point comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. It found that in
30% of all marriages at least one spouse had previously been married, bringing
along assets, retirement accounts and kids. In other words, there are lots of “blended
families” (i.e., families composed of greater and lesser proportions of blood
relationship through divorce, remarriage, adoption, and more)! Adding to the
complexity, in many portions of the country a modern family may be the result
of same-sex marriage and same-sex couples adopting.
If your family tree would take
some artistry to draw out – and some of the best ones do – then so too should
your estate plans.
So how do you do that? The
original article has some ideas, but since your family is unique consider them
guidelines. With the assistance of an experienced estate planner you can come
to a careful, tailored plan for all of your loved ones.
Penta (October 14, 2013) “Estate Planning for Modern Families”