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Estate Planning for the Modern Family

Stephen C. Hosea


Does your lawyer even recognize your family?  Or is he or she trying to fit you into a family model that is long gone?
 
The traditional estate planner structured wealth to pass along blood lines down multiple generations.  The assumption was that the clients are typically a married couple (most often a first marriage for each of them) with children of that marriage and one primary wage earner.  The whole plan was predicated on that model.  Planners had (and still have) difficulty adopting to alternate family structures, that is, second or third marriages, households with no children, same-sex marriages, single parent households, and so on.  They have continued to pass wealth from one spouse to the survivor even if it meant the risk of disinheriting their own natural or adopted child.  They did so even if that surviving spouse might be relatively young so that remarriage might be a real possibility.  Life expectancies have also changed and that should change planning.  Men lived to an average of age 48 in 1900.  At that time, women lived to an average of age 50.  Today, those numbers are 76.3 and 81.2, respectively.  Late in life divorce was once very rare.  Today it is more common; as is late in life remarriage.  
 
According to the U.S. Census Bureau summary in 2013, here is the reality of modern families:  31% are households with no children.  Only 35% are “traditional households” with a heterosexual couple and their children.  The remainder (34%) are blended, multi-generational, same sex or single parent families.  This is the reality and it needs to be considered in each estate plan. 
 
In this series, we will address a variety of challenging family scenarios and discuss the plans that might work best in those scenarios.  Along the way, we hope that you will recognize your own scenario or something close to it and we hope that our discussions are helpful.


Our blog team consists of our estate planning law partners here at McNamee Hosea, including Esther Streete, Danielle Cruttenden, Mick Jernigan and me (Steve Hosea).  Our comments will be based upon our years of experience not only designing estate plans but also implementing them and observing the results of those plans.   Email us your questions at any time and we will try to address them in future blogs for all readers to see. We cannot reply with legal advice or give legal advice in these blogs – just comments and observations on common planning situations.  If you want to meet with a planner to address your own estate plan, we will give you each planner’s contact information with each blog that they write.