3 Estate and Family Legacy Planning Tips for Modern Families
By Solid Serenity Legal Solutions
So many forms of traditional estate planning assume that the family is a “traditional” family, complete with a Mom and Dad who have only had one, long-term marriage with only children from that marriage.
For most families, that landscape has changed dramatically. In fact, statistics show only 35% of families in the United States have the traditional structure of a heterosexual couple with children born to them of their first and only marriage.
Even within this group, almost 9% of those families are interracial couples, and 39% have spouses from different religious backgrounds than their own. So, that number is deceiving.
Today’s families are incredibly diverse. There are divorced families, blended families, couples who have children but do not marry, single parents, same sex couples, polyamory relationships, and adoptive families.
Though each family type has its own unique needs, they share several considerations. Here are 3 Estate and Family Legacy Planning tips for modern families.
(1) Think About the Non-Traditional Heir
To properly plan for your family, you need to understand and acknowledge all the nuances. In modern families lack of planning can cause you to unintentionally disinherit a loved one.
For instance, let’s say you have children, but you and your partner choose not to marry. When one of you dies, the other partner will not immediately inherit any property that is not jointly owned or where they are named a beneficiary. In fact, since you were never married, under Oklahoma’s intestacy laws (the laws that come into play when you don’t plan), your partner stands to inherit nothing. Find out more tips for couples who don’t marry.
Also, consider a blended family. Under Oklahoma law, stepchildren do not inherit from their stepparents. If you have raised your stepchildren as your own and see them as your own, you need to consider how you would feel about them not inheriting anything from you when you die.
Another consideration is a transgender child. Not only do traditional documents use pronouns that may be insulting to your child, there may be a chance your transgender child could lose an inheritance if the pronouns don’t properly match.
If you want to change these outcomes, you have to have proper planning in place, with an eye to your specific family situation. You must focus on building a plan that is geared specifically to your goals.
(2) Consider Diverse Communication
Family meetings have long been an important part of estate planning. Traditionally, such meetings took place face-to-face and documents were delivered by mail.
Though those options are fantastic, this is another area where you must keep your family’s unique circumstances in mind. Have your children spread themselves all over the U.S.? Have some of them even left the country? If so, face-to-face meetings and mail communication for your estate planning documents might not work.
Consider adding more flexible communications to your estate planning documents, like email, text, even Snapchat and other electronic means. Who knows what the hottest communication will be in 20 years?
(3) Be Flexible
There are many ways estate planning documents can provide flexibility for your ever-changing modern family. A few tools to consider for your family include
-Powers of appointment. A person with a power of appointment can decide where certain assets of the estate go. Make sure you use a knowledgeable attorney to help with your estate plan so this power doesn’t become too broad and undermine all your personal estate planning goals.
-Trust protectors. Trust protectors generally have the right to change trustees, change the law governing the trust, or make other important decisions regarding the trust. They provide a check and balance system to ensure your trustee is doing the right thing for your heirs.
-Flexible Distribution. Many traditional documents give certain heirs all of the assets in the trust, or if one of those heirs dies, you move down the list to the next in line. Though many people still choose to take this route, it can leave assets open to creditors and spouses in divorces. Another option is to name a trusted Trustee, such as an institution, and allow that institution to make distributions as they choose following some general guidelines you impose.
If you want to speak to an attorney about your estate and family legacy planning options, call us today.