One in three families is now a blended family. That can lead to complex family dynamics and an increase in estate disputes between partners and stepchildren.
The Will and estate planning team at Solomons Solicitors can help you write a Will that reflects your family circumstances and reduces the risk of your Will being challenged by family members.
Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.
The complexity of estate planning and blended families
Blended families can bring immense joy but difficulties can be encountered in joining together two families to operate as one family unit. Sometimes those problems are never fully resolved and resurface when one member of the family passes away.
The estate dispute could be between the new wife and the first wife over who gets to inherit the testator's estate and stay in the family home. Alternatively, the testator’s children may think that their parent’s new partner or their step-siblings should not share the estate with them.
Family dynamics need careful thought by the Will maker to try and reduce the risk of an inheritance dispute after they have passed on. Whilst there are rarely any easy answers, a testator should think about how to balance the needs of their new partner or their second spouse with the needs of their children from a previous relationship. Thought needs to be given to the risk that if a new partner inherits the testator’s estate, the new partner may then disinherit the testator’s children by leaving the money to their own family.
The first spouse and their potential estate claims
Where a former husband or wife receives spousal maintenance from a testator, the ex-spouse has a right to bring a claim against the estate if the deceased’s Will (or the statutory intestacy provisions if there is no Will) does not make reasonable financial provision for them.
What amounts to reasonable provision depends on the circumstances. For example, a small legacy may be sufficient if the maintenance term is short and the family court has ordered that the maintenance term cannot be extended. The position may be different if a former spouse has a lifetime maintenance order.
Our specialist Will solicitors can look at the options with our family lawyers. For example, a testator may be able to negotiate a clean break financial court order to prevent their ex-spouse from being able to challenge the Will by making an estate claim. Alternatively, creating a discretionary trust in the Will may minimise the risk.
Blended family estate planning solutions
If you are part of a blended family, you may view the option of you and your new partner signing mirror Wills as the solution to the difficulties of fairly distributing your estate. A mirror Will involves two people signing near identical Wills. For example, the mirror Wills could each say that when the testator dies, 75% of the estate goes to the surviving partner, and the remainder is split equally between the children and stepchildren.
The major drawback of a mirror Will is that there is no legal obligation on a partner to not change the mirror Will. They could do so after their partner’s death. In some scenarios, a partner has inherited the majority of the testator’s estate and then changed their Will to cut out the testator’s biological children as there are no restrictions on altering a mirror will after a partner's death.
There are other estate planning solutions to help reduce the risk of an estate claim. These include:
- Mutual Wills
- Lifetime trusts
- Discretionary trusts
These may sound complicated but they are relatively simple and reduce the risk of a testator’s estate being the subject of an estate dispute brought by a disappointed family member. A specialist Will solicitor can discuss the options and help a testator work out which solution best meets their family circumstances.
Speak to our Bournemouth-based Will Solicitors today
Solomons Solicitors can help you with all your Will and estate planning needs making sure you understand your options and you have the legal paperwork you need to provide peace of mind.