Estate planning for blended families

Estate planning in Georgia, as well as other states, involves making decisions about end-of-life issues as well as the distribution of property and funds after death. In most cases, the estate planner is primarily concerned with the needs and feelings of heirs and loved ones. These individuals likely include spouses, significant others, children and, in some cases, stepchildren.

Over the past several decades, family life in the United States has undergone massive sea-changes. The "nuclear family," in which a husband and wife live with each other and their own biological children, represents only about one-third of the country's households.

Households these days may take many different forms, including single parents raising children, blended families in which parents raise children from different relationships together and cohabiting couples who have shared finances but have never legally married one another.

Although so-called nontraditional households have now become the norm in the United States, standard estate planning processes may not meet the needs of these couples and families. As a result, it is becoming very important for estate owners to work with attorneys to develop wills, trusts and beneficiary designations that acknowledge the roles of different individuals in a family structure. This is particularly true when an estate plan includes stepchildren or an unmarried partner.

Individuals who are worried about estate planning might benefit from consulting with an attorney. Legal counsel could review the client's current circumstances and make recommendations as to appropriate estate planning. These recommendations include safeguards that protect the interests of individuals who are not legally related to each other but have a close personal bond.

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