Garton & Harris

Planning An Estate For A Blended Family

Nowadays, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ family which is something to be celebrated. Having the freedom to decide how to live with the people you love is a wonderful thing. That being said, navigating estate planning can become increasingly complicated when a testator has previously been married or is part of a blended family.

How can blended families best navigate estate planning in order to ensure that all of their loved ones are cared for? While there isn’t one simple answer, there are certainly options.

Marriage Agreements, Spousal Trusts, And Stepchildren

Often referred to as prenuptial agreements, or prenups, marriage agreements are created with the intention of allocating assets in the event that the marriage should end. For a couples who live together but are not married, a cohabitation agreement provides the same support. It is important to note that while a marriage agreement can address the distribution of assets after death, it may not be determinative.

In blended families where a testator has children from a previous relationship, a spousal trust can help ensure that both the new spouse and the children are cared for. With this particular trust, assets from the estate are transferred so that only the spouse can benefit from them as long as they are alive. A spousal trust can be set up in several ways to handle tax issues and maximize generated income.

When it comes to children, blended families pose a unique challenge. In instances where there is a close relationship between stepparent and stepchild, it may follow that the testator wishes to include the non-biological child in the will. While a stepchild can be included in a will, unless they have been legally adopted by the testator, they cannot make a claim against the support. A stepchild who has not been legally adopted would not be entitled to any part of the estate should the stepparent die without a will.

While planning an estate to accommodate a blended family requires special considerations, it is possible to do it in an efficient and effective way. Experienced wills and estates lawyers understand British Columbia’s laws and can help clients ensure that the estate planning process is tailored to suit their needs.

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