Historically, estate planning was pretty straight forward: eldest son got almost everything, additional siblings fought over whatever might remain. Today’s modern family brings with it diversity and plenty of advantages, but can also make estate planning trickier, which is why it’s important to speak to an experienced family law or estate planning lawyer before a major crisis happens to ensure that your family is financially protected, and that your wishes are respected and followed concerning any precious heirlooms or assets you own and would like to go to specific family member’s upon your death.
Although the “modern family” (including unmarried partners, single parents, remarriages resulting in blended families and more) accounts for more than 50% of all American households according to the US Census Bureau, many state laws, including family and estate planning laws have failed to keep up with these shifting family dynamics. Wills, power of attorney document and beneficiary designation forms for unmarried couples may need to be completed differently than for couples who are married, as the legal rights of married and unmarried couples differ, without regard to the length or commitment of the individual relationship.
In many states, if someone dies without leaving a valid, legal will, the state will distribute their property to “family” members first, followed by charities or even the government. What constitutes “family” may vary according to where you live and according to the documents you have in place to memorialize your relationship and your wishes upon death. In many states, there is a strong bias in the law against unmarried couples, and the transfer of assets between unmarried people or to step-children or other parties is much harder than the transfer of assets between a legal husband and wife and their biological children.
If you are part of the American majority of “non-traditional”, or modern families, call the Law Office of Anne Dowden Saxton today to setup a free consultation to begin your estate planning. Proper estate planning will ensure that your loved ones are provided for and taken care of upon your death, and they ensure that your last wishes will be respected. We have the experience, compassion and knowledge you can trust.