Estate planning is important for all families and helps guarantee that your wishes are honored when you pass and that your assets are distributed as intended. While all families should consider estate planning, it is especially important for non-traditional families that often face unique challenges and are not always protected by law. This article will discuss various key points of non-traditional family estate planning and explain the many legal documents needed to protect family interests.
What is a Non-Traditional Family?
No one definition can fully describe a non-traditional family. The term has evolved and now includes many different family structures. The “traditional” family model generally consists of a nuclear family with a married father and mother with biological children. In contrast, a non-traditional family structure may be a little more complicated. They may include:
Same-Sex Couples: Many states have legalized same-sex marriage. Families headed by same-sex couples may include biological children from previous marriages, adopted children, or children conceived via assisted reproduction. While legal recognition of same-sex marriage varies by jurisdiction, many states view these marriages as identical to “traditional” marriages and are afforded the same rights.
Blended Families: These families may include children from previous relationships and marriages. Families with stepchildren and stepparents may require additional estate planning to protect the family if a parent dies.
Extended Families: Many non-traditional families are headed by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends.
Single Parent Families: This family structure involves a single parent raising children. They may not have a robust support system and can greatly benefit from estate planning.
Families Without Children: Many couples do not have children either by choice or the inability to have them. They still share their lives and assets with each other. Estate planning without children involves deciding how to allocate assets to their designated beneficiaries for their accounts and life insurance policies.
Estate planning for non-traditional families is important regardless of biological connections.
Why Do Non-Traditional Families Need Estate Planning?
All families should participate in some level of estate planning, but it’s even more important for non-traditional families due to the unique problems they may experience, such as:
Legal Recognition of Family Structure: Estate planning has the power to protect same-sex couples in jurisdictions where LGBTQ+ rights are not fully recognized. There may be situations where spousal rights are not upheld, such as when a spouse has a hospital stay and the hospital refuses to release information. When one partner dies, the surviving partner may not have the same legal rights as a spouse.
Safeguarding At-Risk Beneficiaries: Blended families experience unique challenges regarding stepchildren and non-biological children. They are at risk of being left without support should their parents die. Estate planning provides options to allocate assets to protect them.
Supporting Non-Traditional Caregivers: Many caregivers are extended family members or family friends who do not have legal guardianship but provide for the family. Estate planning can provide for these caregivers if the parents die or become incapacitated and unable to care for themselves or their children.
Avoiding Disputes: Court is expensive, and a dispute can drain the estate’s value. A clearly defined estate plan can help avoid family disagreements and court challenges.
Non-Traditional Family Estate Planning Documents
Non-traditional families may need numerous estate planning documents to protect their assets and ensure that their wishes are honored regarding asset distribution. Here are some important estate planning documents that can help:
Last Will and Testament: Most people are familiar with a will, but this document is even more important for non-traditional families. They can specify who you would like to serve as guardians for your minor children, outline your beneficiary designations, and provide for stepchildren who would not inherit otherwise.
Power of Attorney: There may be situations where you cannot make decisions for yourself. A POA designates another person to act on your behalf regarding financial decisions.
Healthcare Proxy: You’ve probably heard horror stories of same-sex couples being denied the ability to care for their partners once they enter the hospital. A healthcare proxy can designate your partner to have the ability to make medical decisions if you are unable to.
Contact an Attorney
Progeny Law Firm assists clients with estate planning in Baton Rouge, LA. Call (225) 465-1090 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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