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Why it's so important for blended families to consider estate planning

Over the last several decades, the definition of the traditional family has undergone something of a transformation. To illustrate, consider how our views of the typical family have evolved from beyond the traditional nuclear family -- a once-married couple and their dependent children -- to include everything from single parents to so-called blended families.

It goes without saying, however, that even though our view of the typical Canadian family has become much more inclusive nevertheless, there are financial and legal considerations that are mutually exclusive to each family structure.

To illustrate, consider the case of blended families, meaning those families consisting of spouses with children from a prior marriage who all live together as one unit.

While it is absolutely necessity for the spouses in these blended families to sit down and address their finances very early on in the marriage, statistics indicate that as many as two-thirds of them fail to do so.

Many blended-family spouses are also often neglecting to undertake their estate planning.

However, these couples really need to take a comprehensive approach to their estate plan, examining everything from spousal trusts, beneficiary designations and powers of attorney to insurance, funeral arrangements and support obligations.

This is especially true if the spouses are relying on their respective estate plans they executed prior to the marriage and perhaps even in an entirely different location. The reason? The succession law actually varies considerably among the provinces.

The importance of seeking legal advice in these matters while remarrying cannot be stressed enough. In many jurisdictions if there's a will, but people get remarried, the marriage will render any previous wills void.

What all of this serves to underscore is that spouses entering into blended family situations -- and all other family types for that matter -- should strongly consider sitting down with an experienced attorney to discuss their situation, explore their options, and create an estate plan that is both legally sound and satisfactory.

Source: Yahoo! Finance Canada, "Blended family finances: Where to start," Gail Johnson, Nov. 21, 2014

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