If you are part of a blended family, what can you do to avoid any future inheritance problems? We look at some common disinheritance issues for blended families and the steps you can take to protect your legacy and your loved ones.
Disinheritance occurs when someone is excluded from a Will or trust, resulting in them receiving little or no inheritance. In some families, disinheritance might be intentional such as a strained relationship or a disagreement. In blended families, however, the reasons for disinheritance can be more complex.
Disinheritance and complex family dynamics
Disinheritance isn’t always deliberate - in blended families, it can happen without anyone knowing until it’s too late to act. Usually, it occurs when someone remarries, and their estate passes to a new partner after their death. Often, children from the new marriage or civil partnership could stand to inherit, leaving children from the first marriage disinherited.
Nowadays, blended families are much more common. A modern family might include a mix of stepparents, stepchildren, and half-siblings, creating complex relationship dynamics. As a result, blended families can pose some difficult challenges when it comes to estate planning. It is important to make sure every loved one stands to inherit from your estate, if this is your wish.
Below are some common challenges for blended families:
Complex family dynamics require sensitive and careful consideration before determining how an estate should be distributed.
Unlike biological or adopted children, stepchildren have no automatic legal right to inherit from their stepparents, leading to unintended disinheritance.
Parents could feel torn between responsibilities to their biological children and their new family. Balancing these obligations can be challenging and could create conflict.
How to protect your blended family
As blended families often face estate planning challenges, it’s important to make sure you have those difficult conversations sooner in life. This will give you peace of mind that your loved ones are protected and are not disinherited when you die.
If you are part of a blended family, consider the following steps:
Open communication: Be transparent with your family, discussing your intentions and any concerns about your estate. This allows you to address potential issues while you’re still alive, so you can work towards amicable solutions that benefit everyone.
Make a Will: Seek professional guidance to help you write a Will that reflects your wishes and protects everyone in your family. You will need to state the intended “beneficiaries” – those who will inherit from you - including children and stepchildren, if this is your wish.
Set up a Trust: In some cases, a trust could allow you to allocate certain assets to specific beneficiaries. This can be a way to ensure their financial security, while maintaining control over how and when they will receive their inheritance.
Pre/Post-Nuptial Agreements: these types of agreements with your spouse or partner can be useful in blended families. Although they are not strictly legally binding, they can help you clarify the distribution of assets in case of divorce or death if there’s a dispute.
Review your estate: Life is constantly changing, so you should review your estate and Will every year. Your Will and any relevant estate planning documents should be updated to reflect any changes. For example, this might be your family structure, financial circumstances, or your personal preferences and wishes.
Blended families benefit from legal advice
When it comes to estate planning, if you’re in a blended family, your situation will need careful consideration to avoid any disinheritance issues. To protect your blended family after you pass away, thorough and detailed estate planning is essential, along with a valid up-to-date Will.
By being proactive and communicating openly, you can have difficult conversations before it’s too late. By using an experienced solicitor, you can ensure that your loved ones are protected and your estate is distributed according to your wishes. Professional legal advice will help you navigate the complexities of any disinheritance issues, so you can create a secure legacy.
Our trusted team of Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors regularly advise people in blended families. Our aim is to ensure your estate goes to the people you choose when you pass away. We always provide caring and sympathetic advice to our clients. We will explain any complex matters to ensure you know your options and any possible outcomes from your decisions.
If you need a Will or advice on an inheritance matter, please get in touch or email: email@example.com to arrange a face-to-face or telephone appointment.