Estate planning for blended families
The concept of family has adapted over the years to reflect social norms – expanding from husband-and-wife to include de facto, same-sex and blended families. The law replicates this, modernising its form to reflect contemporary lifestyles.
Succession law, also known as wills and estate law, is largely successful in this regard, maintaining its relevance by incorporating the growth of modern family structures and transforming from old-world ideas of inheritance and heirship, to embracing equality and diversity as we know it today.
And yet, contemporary succession law does not entirely reflect recognised family structures. Stepchildren are vulnerable and discriminated against by our current legal system.
In NSW, a will-maker has an obligation to provide for their partner and children. If they don’t, these ‘family’ members have a legal right to contest for the estate. Surprisingly, this does not include stepchildren.
What’s the problem?
Given that about one in ten families are ‘blended’ or ‘step-families’ we are seeing a growing number of clients who are missing out on their inheritance.
How does this happen?
In a typical case, the biological parent dies and leaves their entire estate to their surviving partner. They do this believing that their beloved will ultimately provide for all the children within the ‘blended’ family. However, we see that often the stepparent makes a new will and provides exclusively for their own children.
How can you protect your child’s inheritance in a blended family?
There are several options. Estate planning can address your will, testamentary statements of intention, and agreements between partners not to change their wills after one partner has died.
At Northern beaches Lawyers, we can help you work through these often-complex issues in a straightforward way. We understand that your testamentary affairs form part of your ongoing family situation and relationships and we have the experience and expertise in this area of the law to ensure that your values and future intentions will be realised.