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Estate planning for blended families may take extra care

Although it makes great fodder for soap operas and dramatic movies, no one wants to leave the family to squabble over an estate after he or she passes away. For that reason, many people leave their final wishes in a will, so that there can be no doubt as to who gets what. Disappointed heirs, however, can make life difficult for others if they feel the will was unfair. Blended families may be especially likely to experience turmoil, if the estate planning is not done just right.

Blended families are increasingly common in Ontario and across the country. According to Statistics Canada, there were 3.7 million families with children in the country in 2012. Of these families, 12.6 percent were blended families. Professionals, who work in the estate planning field believe that such families require extra care to prevent strife at the time of distribution.

While one may feel the best way to avoid friction is to treat everyone equally, industry insiders advise doing otherwise. A better approach may be to treat everyone fairly, and then explain one's reasoning far ahead of time. For example, rather than leave a nonbiological child of a second marriage the same share as a natural born son or daughter, it may be wise to leave amounts to both children, but leave a larger share for one's own child. By preparing everyone in advance, it may be that having time to process the decision will yield better results than having it sprung on them when the will is executed.

It is impossible to know what may happen after one dies, but it is important to make the best plans possible in the here and now. Having professional help may be what it takes to ensure each heir is as happy as may be with his or her share of the estate. An Ontario lawyer who handles estate planning routinely will have the skills and knowledge needed to make a man or woman's vision a reality.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "Inheritance stakes higher with blended families", Paul Attfield, May 26, 2017

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