What is a blended family?
The term ‘blended family’ is used to describe families where you and or your partner have children from previous relationships. You may also have children of your current union.
What are the estate complications of a blended family?
It can be quite challenging as a member of a blended family to work out how you would want to share your wealth when you pass away. This is because there are competing interests and potential estate claims to weigh, between your children from other relationships and your current spouse and step-children.
The risks of an estate claim
The most commonly litigated estate scenario is between a subsequent spouse and children of the willmaker’s previous relationships. It is therefore important to get the right legal advice on what provision to make to minimise the risk of claim, and what strategies can be put in place to safeguard your estate so that it passes in line with your testamentary wishes. Because estate claims are very expensive and can fracture families for generations, it is vital to spend the time to get it right now while you can. Fortunately, many of the risks can be significantly minimised with a robust estate plan.
There are many options and a number of good strategies and solutions that we can offer, crafted to meet your particular requirements. The estate plans that we are commonly seeing litigated in the Courts now are blended family cases that have not been given the proper level of thought and attention during the estate planning phase.
Strategies to minimise risk
As part of our planning meeting with you, we take time to find out what you want to achieve and we look at your assets and relationships carefully. We then brainstorm with you a number of solutions from which you can choose ‘the best fit’. Like a good suit, you’ll know the solution that feels right. A number of our clients have said that they had in the past made several attempts at working out the answer, with no success, until they saw us.
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Our unique ‘4 easy steps’ makes the process easy
Expert Estate Planning with Fixed Fees
Meet With Your Lawyer
Whether we meet virtually or face to face, we will listen, answer your questions, craft your estate plan and provide you with a fixed fee quote.
We’ll Keep You Updated
You will receive draft documents to review. You can discuss your plan with us at any time you want.
Final Document Meeting
We will go through all of your final documents together to ensure the plan is exactly what you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the estate risks for blended families?
If you are a blended family (i.e. either or both of you have children from a previous relationship) there are certain estate planning risks that may arise. You need to carefully consider the distribution of your estate, taking into account the needs of your spouse, children and stepchildren, all of whom may be eligible to make a claim against your estate if they have not been adequately provided for. In addition, Trustees of super funds can exercise their discretion to pay your super death benefit to particular people where you do not have a binding death benefit nomination, or it has lapsed, and their decisions are open to attack.
There are a range of estate planning strategies available to you that could help to reduce the likelihood or impact of a claim being made against your estate and we recommend that you seek professional advice.
What are some estate planning strategies for blended families?
- life insurance to increase the gift to certain family members;
- joint tenancies for property and jointly held cash;
- the use of discretionary trusts and gift and loan back strategies;
- Binding death benefit nominations in superannuation;
- Inheritance agreements to protect inheritances for children once the surviving spouse passes away;
- Testamentary trusts with shared control; and
- Transfer of assets during one’s lifetime,
- and many more.
Great caution should be exercised in implementing any of these strategies without the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer in preparing blended family Wills as each strategy can have adverse tax or other consequences.
Who can make a claim against my estate when I die?
Who can make a claim against your estate depends on two things: firstly, where you are living at your date of death and secondly, where you hold your assets. In Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, your spouse (including married, registered relationship and certain de facto partners) and your own children are eligible. Depending on where you live and hold assets, other eligible claimants may include:
- Your short-term de facto partner;
- Your former spouse;
- Your stepchildren;
- Certain categories of financial dependants (some examples include your parent, your registered caring partner, your grandchild, a member of your household).
The good news is that here at Estate First Lawyers we can assist you with implementing a range of estate planning strategies in order to minimise the likelihood or impact of such a claim being made against your estate.
How do I protect my inheritance from my spouse?
In all Australian states, your spouse has the right to make an estate claim after you die, to receive some or all of your assets. How much they receive depends on a number of factors, including their needs, length of the relationship, the size of your estate and other competing claims. If you do not want your spouse to be successful in an estate claim, you will need to put in place estate planning strategies in to avoid this. There are a number of options open to you which are effective.
This is a specialised area, so you need to see a Wills and Estates Lawyer for advice. Estate First Lawyers specialise in advising clients on avoiding estate claims.
"My Fiancé and I are a mature blended family. We chose an Inheritance Agreement (Mutual Wills Deed), Enduring Powers of Attorney and Wills. Estate First Lawyers was very helpful in explaining a complex scenario. We feel most confident that ourselves and our family will be protected and benefit from the efforts made to achieve these goals by having a good structure that is fair and beneficial to our families."
"I can recommend Estate First Lawyers for estate planning. They were very good to deal with. Professional, knowledgeable and attention to detail. Details regarding the fees to pay and steps in the process were available at the beginning of the process."