Estate planning tips for blended families

Managing a blended family is complicated enough during your lifetime.  After you pass away, things can get even more complicated.  An effective estate plan can protect your family from financial hardship and the stresses of estate litigation after you are gone.

Our Richmond Hill wills and estates lawyers can answer all of your questions about estate planning tips for blended families.

The importance of an estate plan for blended families

A common estate plan for couples is to leave the entire estate to the spouse on the presumption that the spouse will pass everything onto any children the couple has upon the death of the spouse.  While simple to put in place, this is not an effective estate plan for:

  • blended families,
  • anyone who has had more than one spouse or co-parents with more than one other person or
  • anyone who has step-children.

In blended families, it is important to address the needs of children directly or you risk that they will be left out altogether.

Talk about your estate plan

By discussing your estate plan with both current and ex-spouses and children (if appropriate), you can manage expectations.  If someone knows what to expect, they are less likely to be disappointed or feel entitled to something else after you die. Managing the expectations of your family members can go a long way towards preventing estate litigation.

Talking about your estate plan also gives you a chance to explain the rationale behind estate planning decisions, which may not be obvious to family members.  Having these discussions with you today may save family members from hurt feelings after you are gone.

Choosing a trustee or executor

People often assign a spouse or co-parent to be the executor of their will or the trustee of any trust set up for minor children.  In a blended family, this can cause unnecessary strife.  Your children may not feel comfortable with their step-parent in charge of their inheritance.  Your ex-spouse may not trust your current spouse to effect a fair division of your estate.  Even if you know the person you would name would act fairly, the mere appearance of unfairness is often enough to lead to litigation.  It might be worthwhile to name an impartial party to the role of executor or trustee in the case of a blended family.

Remember your support obligations

Depending on the specifics of any separation agreements or court orders, you may be obligated to provide for an ex-spouse in your estate plan through the maintenance of an insurance policy or through a specific gift in your will.  These terms are generally tied to your spousal support or child support obligations.

Under Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, you are obligated to provide support for your dependants in your will.  If you fail to do so, the court can make whatever changes it thinks are appropriate to your will to provide the necessary support.

When you die, your current spouse has the option of choosing either:

  • an equalization payment under the Family Law Act or
  • their entitlement under your will.

Contact our Richmond Hills Estate Planning Lawyers Today for Legal Advice

Juggling all of these obligations can be complicated.  Our wills and estates lawyers are here to help.  Contact us today for more estate planning tips for blended families. Our Richmond Hill wills and estates lawyers would be pleased to speak with you regarding your legal needs with respect to estate planning in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is only intended to act as a general overview on a legal topic and does not intend to act as legal advice.