As time changes so does our familial structures. Did you know that approximately forty percent of married couples are composed of blended families? Blended families come in many shapes and forms. A blended family is one in which one or both spouses have had a child from a previous relationship. One thing that all blended families have in common is a former spouse or significant other. The state of Florida does not recognize common law marriages, but Florida does respect parental rights. Estate planning is one of the most neglected areas in most families.
Most people think that this is something you take care of when you reach an elderly age. Estate planning is something that gets done later. Unfortunately, none of us know if we have until later. In my practice, I find that most clients that failed to plan are those who have experienced how complex not having an estate plan can be on a family. There are many reasons why an estate plan is necessary.
However, I feel that there are three significant reasons estate plans are crucial for any family. First, exes are exes for a reason. There are many reasons why relationships come to an end. Typically, those reasons include trust, money, and compatibility issues. If you have an ex who was not incredibly wise with the finances, then you should consider an estate plan. If you die, did you know that your former significant partner may have parental rights over your minor child? If this is the case and you leave assets or money to this child, then your former partner may have rights on how to manage your child’s estate. By having an estate plan then you can name a person whom you trust.
This person would be responsible for the assets or money left to your child without affecting the parental rights of your former partner. The intention of estate planning is not to deprive anyone of their parental rights but to make the best of the assets left to your minor child. Second, the government may have a say in what happens to your estate. Absent an estate plan then more likely, than not the Florida Probate Code will then dictate who gets to manage and have access to your estate. If you have an estate plan, then you can have a piece of mind. You will know who will be in charge and who is managing it. Third, it is never too early to plan but it is always too late. Did you know that a Last Will and Testament only takes effect upon your passing? That means you can change it as many times as you like until the day you either become incapacitated or die.
One of the most common misconceptions is that a power of attorney has “power” even after the passing of a person. There is absolutely no truth to that statement, once someone has died a power of attorney ceases to exist. It no longer has any power and by that time, it is too late to do anything to plan. It is important to address the specific needs of any family. However, blended families have so many complexities it is important to seek the advice of an attorney to plan.