Deciphering the Complexity: 5 Crucial Aspects of Blended Family Wills You Need to Know
What Do Blended Family Wills Mean?
Blended family wills refer to estate planning documents created by individuals with a “blended” family, meaning a family composed of a couple and their children from current and previous relationships.
Blended family wills are crafted to ensure a fair and precise distribution of assets upon the death of the individuals. They need careful consideration due to the complexities involved with the potential competing interests of the surviving spouse, biological children, and stepchildren.
Creating a will in a blended family scenario involves balancing the need to provide for a surviving spouse while ensuring the children from previous relationships are not disinherited.
Various strategies, such as life interests, testamentary trusts, and mutual wills, can be employed in such cases.
How Do Blended Family Wills Work?
Blended family wills provide for a complex family structure that includes a couple and their children from current and previous relationships. Here’s how they generally work in the context of Australian law:
Detailing Assets: The will-makers describe all their assets in the will. These include real estate properties, personal belongings, savings, and investments.
Designating Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are identified, and their estate shares are defined. This can be particularly complicated in a blended family situation as the will-makers must balance providing for their current spouse, biological children, and step-children.
Choosing Executors: The will-makers nominate executors responsible for carrying out the wishes detailed in the will.
Special Provisions: In blended family wills, special provisions might be made to ensure fairness. For instance, a life interest might be set up where the surviving spouse can use certain assets (like the family home) during their lifetime, but the asset will pass on to the children after their death.
Implementation: Upon the will-maker’s death, the executor will administer the estate as per the instructions in the will, ensuring that the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as stated.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Family Wills?
Blended family wills, like any legal document, have both advantages and disadvantages. These can be influenced by the complexity of the family structure, the nature of the relationships within the family, and the specifics of the estate to be distributed.
Advantages of Blended Family Wills:
Fair Distribution: A blended family will allow for an equitable distribution of assets that considers the unique structure of a blended family. It can ensure that all family members, including a current spouse, biological children, and stepchildren, are provided for.
Avoiding Disputes: A well-drafted will help prevent disputes among family members after death. Explicitly stating your intentions leaves less room for misunderstanding or disagreement.
Flexibility: Blended family wills can be flexible and tailored to your family’s specific needs and circumstances. You can include special provisions, like life interests or trusts, to meet the particular needs of your family members.
Disadvantages of Blended Family Wills:
Complexity: Blended family wills can be more complex to draft than a will for a “traditional” family structure. This can make the process more time-consuming and potentially more costly.
Potential for Conflict: Despite the best intentions, a will that divides assets among a blended family can still lead to conflict, especially if family members feel mistreated.
Regular Updates Needed: As family circumstances change, such as the birth of additional children or changes in your financial situation, this will need to be updated to reflect these changes. This requires time and potentially additional legal costs.
Do I Need to Add My Former Partner to My Blended Family Wills?
You must only include your former partner or spouse in your will if you have specific reasons or obligations. For instance, if you have agreed to specific provisions in your divorce settlement or if there are ongoing financial obligations like alimony or child support, these will impact the content of your will.
In most cases, when creating a will for a blended family, you would focus on providing for your current spouse, biological children, step-children or other dependents, and possibly other relatives or loved ones.
Can Blended Family Wills Be Contested?
Yes, like any other will, a blended family will can be contested.
In Australia, as in many other jurisdictions, specific categories of people (typically spouses, children, and sometimes others who were financially dependent on the deceased) have the right to contest a will if they believe it is unfair or if they believe the deceased had a moral duty to provide for them but did not.
In a blended family situation, there can be more potential for disputes, given the complex relationships and potential competing interests between current and former spouses, biological children, and step-children.
This is why it’s essential for blended family wills to be carefully drafted, ideally with the assistance of a legal professional, to ensure clarity and minimise the potential for disputes.
If a will is contested, the court will consider various factors, such as the financial needs of the person contesting the will, their relationship to the deceased, the size of the estate, and the deceased person’s relationship with other people named in the will.
At Justice Family Lawyers, we specialise in crafting thoughtful, comprehensive wills for blended families.
Our aim? To ensure fairness, reduce conflict, and secure your family’s future. Take the first step towards peace of mind. Contact Justice Family Lawyers today. Let’s create a will that honours your unique family dynamics.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.