Updated April 2019
Proper estate and succession planning can make all the difference to family unity, particularly with blended families after a second marriage. Partner and elderly client specialist Louise Southwell discusses how to plan for every eventuality while keeping your family united.
Legal advisors often have to help solve family conflicts following a death, if estate planning has not been completed properly. This is often true within blended families – when the person in question has children, and indeed grandchildren, from previous relationships – these issues may not just be confined to monetary matters but could include specific legacy assets, businesses, farms or cottages.
A common problem is how to balance properly providing for a surviving spouse as well as leaving an inheritance to children and grandchildren from previous relationships.
Discussing your options with an expert advisor can help create a more united family for the future. This can help you review exactly what options are available to help support a spouse while still providing for children from previous relationships. These options could include a gift in a Will, interest for life in a Trust or a combination of the two.
It is also important to consider the funds that will be needed to support your second family in their lifetime, which will include reviewing who has the titles to family residences and where your spouse would be likely to live, as well as how any replacement properties for your spouse maybe funded.
Parents should consider carefully who to appoint as an Executor to their estate, or as power of attorney, should they become incapable of doing so in the future. Keep in mind the relationship between siblings and/or step-siblings and how well they will be able to work together.
Appointing one of your children to be an Executor could cause an unintended power dynamic. On the other hand, appointing more than one may cause disagreements, which could stall estate administration. It is important to think carefully about what would work best in your own family.
Often, parents may give gifts or loans to adult children in times of need or to help with significant purchases. Any big payments such as this should be documented with your legal adviser, particularly if you intended to equalise any monetary amounts among other siblings in your Will.
With complex assets such as businesses, farms or heirlooms, it is a good idea to discuss your wishes and intentions with your family, so that there are no surprises in the future. If you intend to equally divide assets among your heirs, arrangements can be made to ensure this happens as well as taking into consideration your own family members thoughts and wishes on who inherits which assets.
In a blended family, it is crucial to choose the right Executor or Trustee, who can act impartially, particularly if there are conflicting interests from children, or spouses, from different relationships. By having in-depth conversations with family members, you can also create a personalised solution that works for everyone, and that can adapt and change over time.
After decisions are made, it may be wise to work with your legal advisor to create a Letter of Wishes, which will outline your thoughts behind your estate plan, which can be very impactful to pass on to the next generation.
For more information and advice, contact Louise Southwell, elderly client specialist at Coodes Solicitors, on 01736 362294 or firstname.lastname@example.org