Estate Planning – what to think about when you have a fractured family set up

These days it is quite common to have a fractured family set up. It is relatively unusual for marriages to last the 30-40 years that they did in the past.

As a result, it is possible you may have children with more than one partner, stepchildren, grandchildren in a similar set up, or a new partner.

When your family set up is not straightforward, you need to give particular thought to your wishes, when something happens to you. You need to be clear about who you wish to provide for, and who you don’t.

We always recommend not making hasty decisions, so we would suggest mulling this over for a while, before making changes to your Will.

Memorandum of Wishes

Once you have decided and are comfortable with those decisions, we recommend having a Memorandum of Wishes created. This document details how you want your possessions shared out amongst your loved ones. This tends to focus on lower value items, and specific things within your estate, rather than higher value assets, such as property.

The Memorandum is not legally binding but is very helpful in guiding your Executors or Trustees on your final wishes.

When planning your estate, you also need to be clear on why you have chosen to exclude anybody who would ordinarily stand to inherit. We recommend writing a letter to anybody who might be affected, explaining why you have chosen to exclude them.

Whilst this does not guarantee your Will will not be contested, it does demonstrate to a court of law your thinking and justifies the decisions you have made.

If you have separated from your spouse, but not divorced them, and not changed your Will, your estate will pass on to your spouse. So, we encourage you to reflect on whether you wish that to happen.

If you have a new partner, you need to consider if you want your estate to pass to them, or your children, should something happen to you. This is a very common problem and can cause a lot of anguish in families.

And, in our experience, that is the biggest problem.

The distress caused in families when they discover their inheritance is not what they were expecting. As we have said many times before, it is also why we encourage having family discussions regularly, so nothing comes as a nasty surprise.

If you believe there may be conflict, we also encourage you to think very carefully about who you appoint as both Executors and Trustees. Will they be able to handle the conflict? Do they know you best? Are they truly able to make the right decisions, as you would have wished?

There is no right or wrong answer. It is your estate, and your decision on how it is all shared. But having a fractured family set up does lead to conflict and the possible contesting of the Will, so we encourage you to spend time getting this right. You should also review it regularly, to ensure it is still meeting the needs of you and your family.

If you would like support with reviewing your Will, please contact us on 01344 875 310.

fractured family set up