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Non-traditional families and estate planning

Relationships and family structures are more diverse than ever, and people have different goals and needs. That is especially true when it comes to estate planning.

However, too many people assume that rigid, standard estate plans will suffice when they have a non-traditional or complicated family structure. This approach can result in confusion, disputes and unnecessary limitations, as this Forbes article discusses. To avoid or minimize complications when your family is more modern than traditional, consider the following areas.

Your children

It is not uncommon for parents to be unmarried or divorced. There are also arrangements where step-parents, grandparents or other family members raise a child, or parents who are estranged from their extended families. Because of this, the role of guardian after a parent passes away may become especially complicated.

Assigning a guardian can avoid considerable messiness. When a parent notes the person or persons they want to serve as a child's guardian, the decision is not left strictly in the hands of the court.

Your property

Many couples cannot or choose not to marry. Some people sever ties with their birth families. There are some people in non-traditional but committed relationships. These factors can make property distribution a thorny issue when someone passes away.

It can be unclear who should inherit what in the event of a person's death. Someone who is very close to you may receive nothing while an estranged or undesirable family member receives money or property. To avoid this, create a will that specifies your wishes on how and to whom your assets should be distributed.

Your designations

There could be many difficult decisions to make if you are incapacitated or pass away. It is hard enough for people to make such decisions when they are grieving; it becomes even more challenging when it is not clear who should make the decisions and what you would want them to decide.

As such, you should designate the decision makers in your estate plan. You can assign trustees, executors and give someone power of attorney. Making these designations yourself ensures someone you trust will make decisions on your behalf, rather than someone who may not agree with or understand your wishes.

Every family is different. Recognizing this and pursuing personalized, flexible estate planning solutions can help you protect those you love.

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