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Category Life Insurance

Drafting a will in a blended family – ‘it’s complicated’

10 May 2023 Gillan and Veldhuizen Inc.

“Succession planning can be a complicated matter even in a simple family structure and not having a concrete plan can lead you to debilitating legal issues down the line.”

That’s according to PJ Veldhuizen from law firm Gillan and Veldhuizen Inc. Veldhuizen stressed that scenario planning is of utmost importance when drafting a will and advises that, especially for modern, blended families, partners should consult with an attorney and carefully explain the composition of their families and loved ones and details of their wishes.

Modern families are particularly vulnerable, what with ex-spouses, step-children and half-siblings. The scenario planning that accompanies the dynamics of a blended family can be the very reason for putting the task off. “We’ve had many a distraught heir or confused partner in front of us dumbfounded by the outcome of the division of a loved one’s assets in a deceased estate,” says Veldhuizen. Going on to explain that it is fairly common for a spouse to leave all of his or her Estate to the other partner, but when one throws in children from previous relationships and the importance of fair treatment it makes things a lot more complicated.

You’ll be left with a few challenges to consider and what will best suit your wishes, such as whether an inter-vivos (while you are living) trust structure prior to death would be best or should you rather opt for a testamentary trust? You will also need to carefully consider the appointment of the estate executor, possible trustees and a clear and level head will be required in nominating all your beneficiaries and the division of your assets.

Sometimes the toughest part is having the discussion with your spouse or partner and agreeing on a solution, and so this is often best done with your attorney, who can explain the processes of executorship, trusteeship and the time considerations of winding up your estate. It is most useful for couples to consult a legal practitioner or specialist estate planner to cover all possible solutions and outcomes. It honestly requires a what-if approach, and an independent facilitator is often the best person to assist.

There is much to consider in the drafting of a will and for many families, these matters are not as simple as a cut-and-paste template or a ‘do-it-yourself’ version.

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