By Harriet Betteridge, Senior Solicitor, Legal Content at Legal Futures Associate Arken.legal
Modern or ‘blended’ families come in all shapes and sizes, they might have children from previous relationships or have family members across the globe. They may consist of cohabiting partners, same-sex married couples, adopted children or enjoy a blend of cultures. They represent the wonderfully diverse world we live in today and are growing increasingly common.
STEPs recent survey ‘meeting the needs of modern families’ reports that 97% of advisors have helped a ‘blended family’ with their estate planning. They also report that an increasing number are requesting support from professionals. This is somewhat unsurprising, as many will have more complex needs and will require help when navigating the complex world of inheritance tax and Trusts. Avoiding conflict and mitigating the risk of contentious claims during probate should also be a key consideration for families.
So, whilst the legislation catches up with the modern way of living, how can estate planners provide the best advice they can to modern families? Here’s Arken.legals’s top ten tips:
Recommendations on supporting modern families with their estate planning:
- Take the time to understand the exact dynamics of your client’s family. Drawing out a family tree can be helpful. Probe your client to make sure they haven’t left anyone out, such as estranged family members.
- Ensure your client is aware of any potential pitfalls and claims that could be made as a result of not providing for particular individuals in their family under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
- With this in mind, STEP recommends running through a variety of different scenarios. Stress test the advice provided and ensure the client understands all the potential outcomes.
- Take time to understand the different cultures within the family, what their values and expectations are.
- Where appropriate, challenge your client on their instructions, to ensure they fully understand them and their consequences, and other options they might consider.
- Make sure your client understands that the rules of intestacy don’t benefit step-children. Helping clients understand what would happen should they die intestate can not only generate business, it’s also great advice!
- Ensure your client has the mental capacity to make their Will by carrying out an assessment. Keep the “Golden Rule” in mind.
- Help your client to write a side-letter to their Will, to provide executors, trustees with an explanation of the rationale behind their decisions.
- Encourage your client to talk to their family about their wishes. This way, they can discuss any potential conflicts prior to making their Will and avoid any unwelcome surprises later down the line.
- Different jurisdictions have different rules around succession and tax. For clients with family members abroad, it can be worth reaching out to local advisors for their input. Make sure your client is aware of how this could impact their wishes.
Arken.legal’s Will writing software helps estate planning professionals spend more time where it matters – helping clients with complex needs plan for their loved ones, providing expert advice and a superior service. Visit our website to find out how you can draft complex Wills in minutes, or help your clients understand their personal illustration if they died intestate.