Every family has their own particular needs and wants when it comes to putting wills and other legal documents in place. Today’s post is about the things you need to think about if you are putting an estate plan in place and not all of the children in the plan are children of the current relationship (step-children, etc.)
One of the things to keep in mind is that your estate plan can be designed the way you want it to be. There is no “normal” way to do things that you have to follow. You can tailor your plan to meet the needs of your family, whatever the branches on the tree look like. What follows are some of the things I’ve seen come up frequently. You can discuss these as a family, and then bring any outstanding issues to the meeting with your attorney.
- If the children’s ages vary by 5, 10 or more years, consider that the younger child may need a larger inheritance left to them if the parents pass away while they are still young, since they will not have had the benefit of being supported by their parents during their growing years.
- Do any of the children have special needs that must be taken into account?
- Do you want different people serving as trustee for minor children who have different sets of parents?
- What other inheritances might the children be expecting from another branch of the family?
- Who do you want to serve as guardian of the minor children? Do different children need different guardians named?
- If there are different guardians being named for the minor children, have your wishes been laid out about keeping the siblings in touch with each other? Do additional funds need to be set aside to provide for the siblings to visit one another?
- Do funds need to be preserved for eventual inheritance by the children if a biological parent passes away first and a step-parent is inheriting most of the property?
If you don’t have certain answers to these questions, or if you’ve never even thought of these issues, or the thought of having this conversation with your spouse makes you really uncomfortable, don’t let that stop you from planning. Your attorney can walk you through the different scenarios and help you make the right choices for your family. Your attorney can also walk you through what would occur if one or both parents passed away, and what that would look like in terms of inheritances for the different children. And the attorney can let you know what would occur if you don’t put a plan in place at this time.
The main thing is to have a plan in place that you construct, not to leave it up to the Courts and your families to attempt to cobble together in an emergency. The peace of mind that comes with planning is worth the time it takes and possible discomfort that can come with talking about these things.