Atterbury Payne Solicitors

Navigating the Maze: Estate Planning for Blended Families

With increasing numbers of people being part of a blended family, extra care should be
taken when putting Wills in place to ensure the best possible outcomes for all affected
and to avoid any unintended consequences. We briefly outline three of the common
issues that need consideration whilst preparing Wills in a blended family. It is intended
as a general guide, but if you feel you could do with more advice, please get in touch with us.

What many people aren’t aware of is that when you get married or re-married, your
previous Will is automatically revoked. Unless a new Will is put in place, or there is a contemplation of the marriage clause included in the Will, this means that the laws of
intestacy shall apply to your estate when you die.
Under the laws of intestacy, the surviving spouse takes priority and will inherit most of the estate. If there are children from a previous marriage or relationship, this will
reduce the inheritance for those children and in some cases, it may mean they inherit nothing at all from their deceased parent.
Once they have inherited the assets, the surviving spouse is free to make a Will and leave their estate to people of their choosing, which may not be the same people the spouse who died first wanted to benefit. Such situations can be very upsetting for bereaved relatives and can be easily avoided by having the correct advice and documents in place before death.

Claims against Wills
It’s important to note that children and stepchildren can challenge Wills on various grounds. The usual reasons we see for Wills to be contested are as follows;
👉 The deceased lacked the required capacity to make a Will when it was made;
👉 The deceased lacked the relevant knowledge of the Will’s contents and therefore could not approve of the Will;
👉 The deceased was subject to undue influence from a third party when they made the Will; and,
👉 The deceased did not make adequate financial provisions for the claimant in their Will.

Sadly, there has been a rise in children and stepchildren bringing claims against Wills for inadequate financial provision and this is arguably because of the increasing
complexity of family structure. It is essential to take advice on these potential claims so that they can be considered when preparing your Will. We are not suggesting that your
estate be left to people you do not wish to benefit, but taking advice can assist you in avoiding such claims arising in the future.
Too often, no party comes out of such proceedings well, as the legal costs normally reduce the estate value and relationships between family members can become strained.

Relationships between relatives
Family dynamics is also an important factor in deciding on the wishes to include in your Will, whether you are in a blended family or not. Even in the most harmonious of
families, relationships between loved ones can alter unexpectedly after a bereavement as everyone deals with grief differently.
This is particularly pertinent when it comes to choosing your executor, or executors if you choose to have more than one. Your executor(s) will be responsible for administering your estate and carrying out the wishes in your Will. They will also likely have to deal with any disputes between your beneficiaries. If a dispute is anticipated, it may be prudent to consider appointing an impartial third party in this role.

There are other issues that need attention too, such as inheritance tax, assets that do not pass under the Will and how unmarried couples are affected by estate planning.

During your initial consultation with Atterbury Payne we will provide you with tailored advice so you can be sure you’re making the right choices for you.
Click here to book your initial consultation.

By Lizzie Connolly

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