Television’s Brady family had their share of ups and downs dealing with being a blended family. And when it comes to estate planning for blended families the legal challenges increase so it’s critical that careful thought is given to how those left behind will be impacted.
Let’s consider this example
Mike has three children when his wife passes away. From an estate planning perspective it’s pretty easy to deal with this new situation – even without a Will the intestacy rules would pass Mike’s assets onto his sons Greg, Peter and Bobby.
After some time, Mike meets Carol and they marry. Carol has three children of her own.
With eight mouths to feed, and a housekeeper, the Brady’s take a shortcut in their estate planning and prepare do it yourself Wills that simply leave all their assets to the other.
Being madly in love and with no dark clouds yet on the horizon they agree that if one of them should pass away the other will “take care of” the deceased partner’s children.
Unlike the television story, tragedy continues and Mike passes away a few years after they have married.
With only the do it yourself Will to rely on all of Mike’s assets pass entirely to Carol with no provisions specifically for Mike’s three boys.
No doubt in the sitcom tv universe this would all work out ok. Carol would find a way to provide for Greg, Peter and Bobby from Mike’s estate and the family would remain together and happy.
Unfortunately we find this is rarely the case when estate planning fails to properly take account of issues that may arise in the future.
Over time relationships can deteriorate, no matter how strong they are now. A surviving spouse may find themselves struggling financially or find themselves with a decision between favouring their own biological offspring versus those of their deceased partner.
Complex risks in blended family estates
The risks of leaving your estate solely to your new partner or to your children at the expense of the other can cause all types of grief for your family after death and working with an estate planner can alleviate the worry, ensure your wishes are protected and your family is cared for the way you desire.
If you are in a blended family, you need to consider not only your own financial well being for future care but also any benefits you want your children and partner to have. You will also need to ensure you have finalised any settlement between you and any former partner.
Blended families require estate planners to think outside the square, applying an experienced approach to personalise your needs and wishes.
Ensuring the assets you’ve acquired throughout your life benefit your entire family upon your death becomes more complex when you find a new partner. Your new partner as well as your biological children and step children require serious thought and consideration in estate planning.
Clifford Gouldson’s Senior Estate Lawyer & Head of Section Sheelagh Gray has extensive experience in complex estate planning. To arrange an appointment with Sheelagh, contact 07 4688 2188 to book your consultation or email the team here.
For further information please contact Sheelagh Gray, Section Head.
The assistance of Jade Scheuerle, Law Clerk in researching this article is gratefully acknowledged.