The Modern Family and Estate Planning

Families have changed throughout the years due to divorces, second marriages, blended families, same sex marriages, single parents, cohabitating couples, multinational couples, couples with different religious beliefs, age gaps between couples – all which can require special considerations in doing your estate planning. 

You may have one or more of these considerations to be factored into your estate planning.  Why are these important? 

When there is a second or subsequent marriage, there could be assets brought into the marriage by each spouse or there could be children from one or both spouses and possibly a child from the current marriage.  How will these assets be treated when one spouse dies?  How are the children to be considered upon the death of one spouse? 

If a couple is cohabitating, they may jointly acquire assets.  How the assets are titled will have an impact of ownership upon the death of one of the parties.  Is there a cohabitation agreement? 

What will happen when one of the couple dies? Is there a child or children born in the relationship?

When there is an age gap with spouses, there can be a wealth gap.  How will the assets of each be considered?  Will they be separately held and distributed separately or will they be combined into joint ownership?  How will the assets be distributed if the richer spouse dies first? What if the residence is owned by the first to die spouse?

Multinational/multicultural couples could have an adventurous life as there could be opportunities to travel between two countries.  But, what is the country of residence?  Are assets owned in both countries?  What will be the tax consequences be upon the death of one spouse? 

Supplemental needs trust planning when there is a beneficiary who is disabled requires special consideration.  Government benefits should be considered so as not to jeopardize the same.  What is the prognosis for the beneficiary and the anticipated needs? 

Religious diversity can be an important consideration.  How are the children to be raised if one parent dies before the children are adults?  What are the feelings with regard to charitable contributions?  What are the religious beliefs with regard to health care decisions?  Are there medical restrictions like blood transfusions, surgery, organ transplants?  Funerals and burials? Are the spouses agreeable to respect the other’s beliefs?

The items above are not meant to scare you, but to spark thoughts that might need decisions.  When you meet with an attorney for your estate planning, don’t hesitate to bring up all matters of concern.  Failure to do so will impede your estate planning to address special considerations. 



About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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