Evolving families and related estate planning considerations

In addressing various configurations, a tag team of columnists focusing upon America’s huge baby boomer demographic note that a boomer parent “may be in a first and only marriage, never married and single, never married and with a current partner, divorced and single, or divorced and remarried.”

What is central to note about that observation in the realm of estate planning is this: The organic, fluid and often complex composition of American families makes a cookie-cooker planning scheme applicable to most cases a broad absurdity.

In other words: Every family is different, which makes boilerplate planning documents, expectations and strategies all but useless in most instances. Instead, what many planners find to be an imperative is close, timely and well-considered input from a seasoned estate planning professional that takes due regard of singular estate-related considerations.

As noted by the above-cited writers in a recent article spotlighting the estate planning needs of many blended families and stepfamilies, close — and, importantly, timely — consideration needs to be paid to planning documents such as wills, trusts and insurance forms.

And the reason for that is obvious. Without a planner’s expectations being clearly expressed in legal writing s and documents, inheritance outcomes can often end up being irrational and even bizarre by default.

A classically cited case is that of a parent who marries for the second time and, notwithstanding his or her desire to provide inheritances to the children of a first marriage, neglects to take the requisite actions needed to accomplish that goal. The result can easily be the application of a state inheritance law dictating that all that person’s property/assets automatically go to the second married partner, with no inheritance at all for any of the kids.

Things can go askew, too, with insurance beneficiary selections. Failure to timely adjust them in the case of death or remarriage can yield entirely unanticipated results.

Given such potential outcomes, note the above writers, the strategy for any planner should be grounded in contacting a proven attorney for advice on all estate-related legal issues.

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