Four Estate Planning Tips for Blended/Non-Traditional Families

More and more people in North Carolina live in blended or otherwise non-traditional families. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that fewer than half of all children nationwide live in a so-called “traditional” family. Some of the most examples of non-traditional family structures include:

  • Single parents;
  • Divorced or separated parents;
  • A blended family (stepparents/stepchildren);
  • A cohabiting couple;
  • LGBTQ couples; and
  • Families with parents and other loved ones in the home.

Every adult should have a detailed, personalized estate plan in place. If you are a part of a blended or non-traditional family it is even more important that you have a customized estate plan. In this blog post, our Charlotte wills and estates attorneys offer four specialized estate plan tips for blended and non-traditional families in North Carolina

1. Start With the Basics: An Estate Plan Should Protect You and Your Family

Estate planning always starts with the basics. No matter your family structure, it is essential that you create a comprehensive estate plan that effectively protects you and your loved ones—no matter what might happen tomorrow. Here are some of the core elements of an estate plan:

  • Will: A last will and testament is the core estate planning document. It allows you to express your final wishes and determine what will happen to your property.
  • Beneficiaries Designations: Some property can be passed through a beneficiary designation (life insurance, IRA, 401(k), etc).
  • Trusts: In some cases, a trust is an efficient, cost effective way to transfer assets to your selected heirs.
  • Powers of Attorney (POA): By granting a trusted person your power of attorney, you will give the legal authority that they need to act on your behalf if you are not able to do so.
  • Living Will or Advance Health Directives: If you have specific wishes for end-of-life care, make sure you express those wishes in a living will or an advance health directive.
2. Do Not Rely on North Carolina’s Intestacy Laws

You may be wondering: What happens if I do not create an estate plan? The quick answer is that you will lose control of what happens to your own property and assets. Instead, your estate will fall under North Carolina’s intestacy laws. In other words, NC law will decide who gets what.

If you are a member of a non-traditional family, this can be a serious problem. The state’s intestacy laws are largely based on the traditional family structure. As an example, if you are cohabiting with an intimate partner—but are not married—your partner likely has no rights to your estate. As another example, stepparents and stepchildren have limited rights under North Carolina’s intestate laws.

The good news is that you do not have to rely on North Carolina’s intestate laws. You have every right to control your own estate so that you can provide from your family members and loved ones. With a will or a trust, you can select your own beneficiaries.

3. Keep the Lines Communication Open With Your Family

For blended and non-traditional families, estate planning can be more complicated. There may be more people to consider. Additionally, people may have differing expectations about what should happen. No one wants to leave their family members dealing with conflict. For this reason, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. When all family members and loved ones are on the same page, it is a lot easier to address problems.

4. Be Ready to Make Changes to Account for Any Changes

An outdated estate plan can be as problematic as having no estate plan at all. Be flexible. You should always be ready to make revisions to your will and/or estate plan if your personal circumstances change. As a simple example, imagine that a new child entered your family. You will want to make sure that your estate plan is fully updated to account for this change in circumstances. Likewise, if there is a new marriage or divorce, your estate plan should reflect this matter.

Get Help From Our North Carolina Wills and Estates Lawyers

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our Charlotte estate planning attorneys represent clients with passion, personal attention, and dedicated professional skill. If you have any questions about estate planning for blended or non-traditional families, we are here to help. Get in touch with us today for a confidential initial meeting with a top-rated lawyer. Our law firm serves communities throughout the region, including in Charlotte, Monroe, Concord, Gastonia, Shelby, and Mooresville.