Adoption, Blended Families, and Your Estate Plan

01/31/2011 by Michele R.J. Allinotte

In my post last week, I reviewed whether or not parents should amend their estate plan if they are having more children. I thought I would continue on that theme this week, as there are other ways in which a family can grow – particularly, through adoption and second relationships. No matter how your family expands, it is always important to review your estate plan with a big life change.

In most jurisdictions, an adopted child would only have rights to inherit after an adoption is finalized. The adoption process can be lengthy and if your estate plan didn’t specifically provide for this child in the meantime, they would not be considered as a legal beneficiary of your estate if you passed away. That means, the “not quite” adopted child would not be entitled to a share of your assets (although they may be entitled to some ongoing support from your estate if they would be considered your dependant).

By updating your estate plan, you can ensure that child who is “not quite” adopted would receive the rights and benefits needed in the event of a tragedy. You can also nominate guardians for that child. Also, if you wish for that child to have a relationship with his or her natural parents or relatives, you can indicate your wishes for this in your instructions to the guardians.

As with “not quite” adopted children, problems can occur with step-children in blended families. In some cases, the children may have an absent or deceased natural parent and the relationship with their step-parent is a strong one. In those cases, the step-parent likely wants that child to be considered as their own child for all purposes, including inheriting under their Will or estate. Again, a step-child would not be considered a legal beneficiary and if the step-parent wanted to ensure that child would be provided for in the event of their death, they will need to specifically state that in their will.

By the same token, many children in blended families have three or four loving parents – their natural parents and their step-parents. Often in those situations, the step-parent may want to exclude their step-child from inheriting under their Will or estate – not because they don’t love them, but because that child will be well provided for by his or her natural parents or grandparents. Again, in order to be clear about your intentions, it is important to state your wishes in your Will and related documents.

As I often stress to all of my clients in Cornwall and area, anyone with children really needs to have an up-to-date estate plan, but for families with “not quite” adopted children or blended families, having a plan in place that accurately reflects your wishes is even more important.

I am currently offering a FREE Peace of Mind Planning Session and $150.00 off all estate planning fees for clients who book an appointment before the end of February, 2011. Call today to make your appointment (and be sure to mention you read this blog post): 613-933-7720.

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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Allinotte Law Office in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of  business law, estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to get her FREE Peace of Mind Personal Inventory to make sure that your family has all the information they need.

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