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Real Family Conversations About Estate Plans, Part 2

Having transparent conversations with your adult children about your estate plan is difficult enough without the complication of divorce or remarriage. And if there are stepchildren involved, maintaining healthy relationships while planning for the future can be even more challenging. At Phelps LaClair, serving Scottsdale and surrounding communities, we specialize in helping you create Living Trusts or Wills that will solidify your estate plan and protect your assets. As estate planning attorneys, we’ve worked with many families. We’d like to share some thoughts about helping you navigate estate plan conversations with nontraditional families.

The Greatest Legacy is Family

Family is the greatest legacy you’ll ever leave. In our last blog post, we shared ideas on how to talk with your adult children about the passing on of your estate in a relationship-driven manner that will preserve this most important gift of family. But with 1300 new stepfamilies forming daily in our nation, and with more than 50% of our families comprised of remarried or recoupled parents, discussions about estates aren’t always that cut-and-dry.

In addition to our previous post’s discussion on making relationships the priority in family talks about your estate, here are some brief thoughts about the complicated subject of fostering family unity among blended families.

It Starts With You and Your Spouse

—First and foremost, you and your spouse need to have open and transparent discussions about your personal wishes and come to an agreement on how assets will be handled. Each spouse may feel partial to natural children when compared to their stepchildren. However, coming to a place of unity about your financial plans is worth it if preserving the greater family unity is the goal. If you and your spouse need unbiased advice when making your plans, don’t hesitate to invite experienced counsel to help guide you through the process. Having an impartial, skilled person walk you through potential minefields can be helpful for your marriage, by providing the wisdom of an outsider’s perspective.

Be Fair

—Once you and your spouse have arrived at a place of agreement on how assets will be handled, talking to adult stepchildren and natural children is next. As we mentioned in our last blog post, thoughtful preparation on your part as parents is essential. After that, it’s important to be fair to each family member. If some of your adult children or stepchildren are more gifted than others or more financially successful, don’t favor them over others who aren’t as capable. If you have natural children or stepchildren who aren’t mature or personally responsible, establishing the right trust will be important. Choose Living Trusts or Wills that can help protect your hard-earned assets from reckless irresponsibility, while enabling you to be fair in the distribution of your assets. Talk to experienced Estate Planning Lawyers about your options.

Treat Personal Property Separately

—Another great piece of advice is to treat cherished personal property separately. When you’re gone, children and stepchildren will each value certain items for the memories they hold. By leaving written instructions in your estate documentation about who will receive certain mementos, you can help family members avoid bickering over these possessions. And if your children and stepchildren are able to have open discussions, talk with them about your choices.  Making your wishes known to your beneficiaries beforehand about the disbursement of personal property may help prevent potential disputes after you’ve passed on.

For more ideas on minimizing conflict between family members in family inheritance discussions, read this article.

Phelps LaClair has served families in the Phoenix Valley for several generations. We’ve seen every possible scenario in family dynamics related to estates, and we’ve helped many families create successful estate plans that work well for them. If you’re looking for Living Trusts or Wills and you’d like our help in building a legacy, contact us today. We believe in preparing for the future, and we believe in families.


Images used under creative commons license – Commercial Use (7/2/18) Bryandilts (Pixabay)

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