As lawyers we regularly deal with clients whose life stories include divorce, separation and most significantly for estate planning purposes, children of various relationships. In line with life as depicted in our popular culture, such as the TV show ‘Modern Family’, and Adam Sandler’s’ Blended’ now is the era of the ‘blended family’.

In Part 1 of our latest blog by Wills & Estate Associate Brooke McMahon, we look at the important questions you need to think about when planning your estate. Part 2 of the blog will explore what documents you will need to prepare for your estate plan to fully protect your blended family.

The estate planning advice we give to our clients must provide realistic solutions for your current circumstances, and also address those parts of your story that came before.  Our professional and understanding lawyers need to know the full story, not just the highlights to be able to give you the advice you need to make the best decisions for you and your blended family.

To help you prepare your estate plan, or check your existing documents, we have devised a quick checklist specifically for the blended family.

Part 1 – Wills

The first thing every person needs is an up to date will setting out their wishes for their estate and their family should the worst happen. For blended families with young children this will also include nominating guardians for your minor children. Here are some important things to consider for making/updating a will with a blended family:

Who is your best choice as executor?

Current spouse?  Adult child/ren? Someone completely independent? Blended families most often require a balancing act of interests between successive family members, and your choice of executor/s can make all the difference in a difficult situation.

Have you included ALL of your family in the will?

Minimising the risk of challenges to your will requires consideration of the full family tree, step children, previous spouses, etc all need to be thought about to ensure your wishes can be carried out as planned.

Should I protect my assets through a Testamentary Discretionary Trust (“TDT”)?

A popular strategy for ‘keeping it in the family’ is the creation of TDT which can protect a beneficiaries’ inheritance in the event of a family breakdown, financial trouble or tax minimisation purposes.

Are any of my assets held as Joint Tenancies?

Many people hold property jointly with a spouse in a Joint Tenancy. This means that upon the passing of one joint tenant, the property will AUTOMATICALLY pass to the surviving joint tenant, or if you are the last surviving joint tenant, to your estate. If you intend to pass your share of a property to your children and not your spouse, steps need to be taken to change the joint ownership to a tenancy in common.

Do I have assets in more than one state/country?

Different states in Australia, and other countries, have different rules about wills and inheritances. If you have assets in multiple places, it is important to discuss this with your Wills & Estate lawyers so that these assets can be easily dealt with by your executors.

Have I considered a Mutual Will?

Mutual wills are contractual agreements made by two people to NOT change their wills without the knowledge and agreement of the other party. These types of will can give certainty, but they can also create unintended difficulties once one party to the mutual will has passed away.

Where is my will?

It is important to store the original will somewhere safe and ensure a copy of the document is easily accessible to your family. There is no register of wills available for families to look up your most recent will, all the best planning in the world will be for nought if no one can find your documents at the relevant time.

As mentioned before, Part 2 of Estate Planning checklist for Blended Families next month where we will look at the remaining documents you need to complete your estate plan and fully protect your blended family. Stay tuned.

Turner Freeman Lawyers – Wills & Estates specialists

To ensure your family is protected, whatever it may look like, it is important to seek professional advice about your specific circumstances. To discuss your estate planning needs or to arrange your appointment to make/ review your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact Turner Freeman Lawyers Wills and Estates Team on (07) 3025 9000.

Our Queensland offices are in Brisbane, Logan, North Lakes, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns.