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Complex families may require especially sensitive estate planning

Because the words, "'Til death do us part" hold true less often these days than they did for generations of the past, the modern family comes in many forms in Alberta. It is not all that unusual for a man or woman to marry more than once during his or her life, and this can lead to complicated family dynamics. As a result, estate planning may be less straightforward for some people and might require a delicate touch.

Data from Statistics Canada shows that of the 3.7 million families with children in this country in 2012, 12.6 percent were blended families. Mothers and fathers of blended families face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning, according to those who work in the field. Some suggest they should focus on being fair, rather than being equal.

By giving an equal share of one's estate to each child, regardless of the child's needs, wants or even biological connection to the family could be a recipe for disaster. Natural children may not understand why a late comer to the family gets an equivalent portion of his or her family's assets. Some estate planners believe the better route is to bequeath based on merit, and explain one's reasoning far in advance to avoid disappointment when it's too late to change things. A moderately difficult conversation now could help prevent a family feud in the future.

Leaving gifts behind to comfort and assist one's family is a noble idea, but the execution requires careful planning to ensure a smooth transfer of assets. Any man or woman who feels he or she has a complicated family may wish to seek professional assistance with estate planning. A knowledgeable Alberta lawyer can help.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "Inheritance stakes higher with blended families", Paul Attfield, May 26, 2017

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