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Estate planning strategies for blended families

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Family dynamics have undergone a substantial shift in recent decades. Approximately 40% of families in the United States are blended.

This creates some unique situations regarding estate planning. Virginia has laws regarding heirs, and failing to account for those can cause conflict and misunderstandings.

Who are considered legal heirs in Virginia?

According to Virginia’s descent laws, if a person dies intestate, their estate passes on to their surviving spouse and biological or legally adopted children. If there is no spouse or children, the estate passes on to the children’s children. 

If there are no descendants of the deceased, the estate will be distributed to the parents, and if they have passed, to siblings and their children. The course of descendants will continue until they have exhausted all options, and if no heirs are found, the estate will go to the Commonwealth.

Stepchildren are not considered descendants of the deceased unless they are legally adopted. Understanding these laws and their implications for inheritance rights is essential for blended families in crafting comprehensive estate plans.

It’s crucial to have open and honest conversations with family members to discuss estate planning intentions, clarify inheritance expectations and address any concerns or conflicts that may arise within blended family dynamics. These discussions can foster transparency and promote understanding of asset distribution decisions.

Parents of blended families must make provisions for their children and stepchildren. Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other investments should be reviewed and updated to ensure they align with estate planning objectives.

It’s also important to consider any family heirlooms that should be kept. An estate plan should ensure those assets are passed on to their intended recipients.

For blended families with minor children, an estate plan should name a guardian and establish a trust account to safeguard the children’s well-being and provide peace of mind for parents.

Estate planning for blended families requires deliberate consideration to preserve family harmony. It may be beneficial to seek guidance from someone who can help craft an estate plan that reflects a unified legacy.