A blended family is when you enter into a new relationship and you and/or your partner are bringing with you children (whether under the age of 18 or older) from a previous relationship. Because of these family dynamics, the preparation of a Will and an Estate Plan can be more complicated than it might otherwise be.
Below are five things that you need to consider when making a Will if you are a part of a blended family.
Provision for your partner
When making a Will, we often find a person’s priority is to provide for their partner upon their death. Equally, you may have entered a relationship where your partner is already well off and you want the focus of your Will on your children. Both arrangements do require careful consideration and depending on your assets or circumstances, you may want to leave your partner all of your assets or just a portion of them, or you may wish to specifically exclude them from a distribution. When deciding what to leave your partner, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my partner financially independent?
- Are they likely to remarry or partner?
- What assets do they already have?
- What will my other dependents or relatives think and how should I make my intentions clear?
Provision for your children
If you have decided that all of your assets are to be left to your partner, there is no guarantee that your children will receive anything from that partner when they die. If a Will has not been prepared correctly, should your partner remarry or should they become estranged from your children, they may exclude your children from their Will meaning your children receive nothing.
When drafting your Will, your children and their inheritance need careful consideration.
Challenges to your Will
Unfortunately, we see all too often challenges arising from Wills made when a person is part of a blended family. If someone feels that they have been left out of your Will or if the provision made for them in the Will is not what they had expected, an application can be made to the Supreme Court under the Administration and Probate Act 1958 to challenge the contents of your Will.
This could be your partner, your children or even your step-children in some cases. If a challenge is made against your Will, these proceedings are not only stressful for your loved ones, they are time consuming and can be extremely costly.
It is important that when making your Will, you have regard to any possible claims that may be made in the future and if there is any action you can take to avoid these. You may wish to consider explicitly stating in your Will why you did or did not provide for someone.
You may have jointly owned assets with your partner which need to be considered when preparing your Will. This is especially the case in regard to any real estate you own with your partner.
If real estate is jointly owned as ‘joint tenants’, then upon your death, the property will automatically pass to your partner regardless of what your Will says. If the property is owned jointly as ‘tenants in common’ then upon your death, your share of the ownership is dealt with in accordance with your Will.
Jointly owned bank accounts or shareholdings are also something that you need to consider as upon your death, these will pass to your partner.
Superannuation can be dealt with in a number of ways upon your death. If you have nominated a beneficiary to receive the proceeds from your superannuation with your super fund, this does not form part of your Estate to be dealt with in accordance with your Will. Your super fund will make payment to the beneficiary nominated on your policy regardless of whether you have a provision in your Will leaving it to someone else.
If you have not nominated a beneficiary with your super fund, then the proceeds from your superannuation will be distributed in accordance with your Will.
When looking to prepare your Will, you must review your superannuation policy to see if you have nominated a beneficiary and if you have, is it correct, and if not, whether you wish to update it to reflect payment to a particular person. Superannuation funds retain a large amount of discretion in ambiguous situations, and it is sensible to be clear in your nomination.
What should I do?
Making a Will is never a straight forward process because if it is not done correctly, could result in pain for your loved ones. With an experienced Wills & Estate Team, Nevett Ford will be able to ask you the right questions so that we can develop a customised strategy for you.
If you require any assistance with the preparation of a Will, please email us at email@example.com or phone us on 03 9614 7111.