Modern family structures are ever more complex. It is increasingly the norm for parents to separate and remarry, bringing step- or half-siblings into the mix. Expectations around monogamy are challenged by contemporary values, and wider acceptance of non-traditional sexualities has led to an expansive idea of what counts as family. Add to this the ugly side of people that money can often provoke, and it is easy to see how estate planning has become especially fraught territory in the 21st century.
If family dynamics weren’t each unique, with individual families having varying needs, estate planning wouldn’t require professional assistance. However, as clear communication is the most important element in mitigating conflict—and communication can only be as clear as the information held—consulting with a professional is imperative. Not only do estate planning attorneys attend to financial concerns, they also assist with psychological and emotional considerations.
Blended families present unique challenges, sometimes more complex than those of their traditional counterparts. Estate planning attorneys create space for addressing such circumstances by facilitating meetings and advising parents on which information to share with which children based on age and maturity. It is worth remembering that professionals have run the gamut of situations and often present perspectives that only come with experience.
A summary or flowchart illustrating an estate’s breakdown can be a valuable tool. Each are of great value when a family involves children from past partnerships, or where the sentimental value of certain elements may not be evenly distributed.
Another concern that an estate planning attorney can help families address is how to protect assets that will be left to heirs with a history of irresponsible spending or substance abuse. In these situations, it’s best to draft a trust with stipulations about spending and behavior. For example, the trust may be drafted with clauses mandating that funds become accessible only if an heir undergoes drug testing or treatment. In such matters, caution and transparency are key to preventing surprise or hurting the feelings of those you love and care about. That being said, most families would prefer to protect their assets from poor decision-making than leave their hard-earned assets in irresponsible hands to prevent hurt feelings.
It is common to think one’s own family is especially complex, but you would be surprised how many patterns repeat themselves—we see it all the time. Our experience can assist you in navigating the challenging terrain of often dysfunctional family dynamics. A professional can often show you that what seems an impossible hurdle…simply requires a creative solution.
Contact the Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia
Our estate planning law firm serves Gwinnett county and the greater Atlanta area, providing quality counsel for matters of estate planning, elder law, business succession planning, asset protection, and more. If you haven’t begun planning your estate—or if you have an estate plan but aren’t sure it’s up to date—please contact us. We can help point you in the right direction and ensure your assets are protected as you want them to be.