This is the first of a series I will be writing about the modern challenge of estate planning for the “blended family” – with a particular focus on couples with adult children. Today’s post will serve as an introduction and overview.
Yes, the days of the “Leave it to Beaver” style family are long gone. So what has replaced it as the norm? Well, not much of a norm at all really, which is why so many people pine for the good old days when things were so much simpler! Let’s face it, we’re living longer and many of us are choosing to be married or coupled for love and not for life and many baby boomers have chosen different routes for their life partnerships than our parents. There is simply no template or norm for these couples and their families looking into longevity planning, caregiving arrangements or estate planning priorities when it comes to the modern blended family. This basic fact makes the whole effort just that much more daunting for most of us – but if we break it down into a conversation that has a beginning and a “to do” list based on the priorities identified in that conversation, efforts can be greatly simplified just by virtue of talking about the obvious, the gorilla in the room that demands our attention (or else).
The impetus for this series of blog posts began with a suggestion by one of my colleagues who organizes the Jefferson County Senior Law Day, at which I have spoken about durable powers of attorney and conservatorships for the last few years. At this year’s event, scheduled for Saturday, June 4th, I have agreed to take on a new topic – on the challenges of longevity and estate planning in the context of the blended family. (And yes, it’s the same weekend as the Larimer Square Chalk Art Festival. I’m happy to be sponsoring the square by my artist cousin, Martin Calomino. . . . I’m sure I’ll be posting some of the pictures from that festival to adorn my blog posts!)
I’ve posted on this general topic before, but I’m going to be looking into this in a much more in-depth manner. I have looked into some internet resources for blended families with adult step-children. I was surprised to find a number of good articles. This article talks about the importance of identifying expectations when adult step children are part of a blended family. When I work with a couple who have a “blended family” – there is a wide range of possibilities along the scale of what is considered blended. Sometimes there are common family events in which the is frequent, regular or expected interaction among the adult step-siblings, while other times these opportunities to interact are few and far between. Here is an article with some practical ideas about what a newly married couple did to ensure that the four adult children (two from both husband and wife) had the opportunity to feel like they were welcome in their parent’s home and included in family activities. Here’s an interview style article that looks at a rocky start to a closely-knit blended family.
So, what exactly am I going to be writing about in this topical series of posts?
Here’s an overview of my next post:
Identifying Some of the Challenges for the Blended Family- including (1) what are the assumptions that govern a couple’s thinking about their relationship relative to the relationship with their children; (2) the dangers of pretending that there is no potential for conflict; (3) starting up the conversation about the difficult questions and talking constructively about what will happen if and what will happen when; (4) getting familiar with what the challenges of longevity mean for couples in a blended family; and (5) the importance of estate planning to minimize conflict among members of a blended family.
In later posts, I will be looking at the different ways those challenges of getting started with the conversation and identifying values and priorities can be effectively met. Rest assured, this is seldom a “once and for all” kind of arrangement – the importance of paying attention to changes in our lives and making the necessary adjustments cannot be overemphasized. To that end, I will be looking at estate planning – both chosen and inadvertent, in the context of the freedom of testation (writing a will) and freedom from testation (the “plan” that most people choose, which means doing nothing and facing the consequences of the law of intestacy of your state of residency). I will also be looking at identifying different kinds of property, both testate and intestate as well – in order to come up with a cohesive “big picture” estate plan. And I will be revisiting the marital agreement and the usefulness of such an agreement to spell out many important details of a couple’s estate plan.
That’s all for now. . .
© 2016 Barbara Cashman www.DenverElderLaw.org