Over the years, family structures have changed quite a bit. A typical family may look very different today than it did just one or two generations ago. These significant changes are often attributed to a number of familial dynamics that have shifted over the past several years. Divorce is more common now, same-sex couples are getting married, and many people are choosing not to ever get married.
While these events and choices can be perfectly satisfying and understandable, they can also make it a little bit more difficult to define who is and is not considered to be a family member. And the difficulty in defining these relationships can present some serious challenges when it comes to drawing up an estate plan in California.
In previous generations, it may have been fairly straightforward to put together an estate plan that evenly distributes assets among family members or children. But family structures are much more diverse these days. Establishing who is and is not technically and legally a member of the family may sound simple at first, but once you get into in-laws, stepchildren, ex-husbands or ex-wives, same-sex couples who cannot legally marry, long-term significant others of an adult child who has chosen not to get married, and other complex connections, it can get tricky.
With this in mind, some people who are developing an estate may want to discuss their wishes and concerns with the very family members who will be affected by it, in addition to an estate planning attorney. Open communication combined with legal support can help to define relationships, identify any terms that may be considered by some to be unfair, and address any issues with including or excluding certain people. No two families are alike, so it can be important to find estate planning solutions that work for your specific family and address the needs of the individuals involved.
Source: Reuters, “YOUR PRACTICE-Who is family when it comes to estate planning?” Beth Pinsker, Oct. 29, 2013