How Estate Planning Can Provide for "Non-traditional" Families

How Estate Planning Can Provide for

When it comes to estate planning things often come down to family: how to care for them best, who in the family gets what, etc. However, our definition of “family” has changed significantly over the years. The “traditional” American family set up looks very different than it did fifty years ago. Divorce and cohabitation are just two factors of many that can complicate a will. 

This is why creating a comprehensive estate plan ahead of time is crucial to ensuring that your assets go where you want them to, and aren’t distributed according to laws that may not allocate resources according to your wishes. 

Whether you’re part of a blended family or are cohabitating with an unmarried partner, having a comprehensive estate plan is crucial to protecting your family and looking after their best interests, even when you’re gone. 


Here are some of the ways an estate plan can take care of your family:


Appoint a Guardian 

Let’s say that you’re a single parent with a rocky relationship to your family and no connection to the other parent. If you pass away before your child turns 18, who is going to take care of that child? Where are they going to live? How will they get their needs met? 

When no will in place, custody is awarded in many cases to those most closely related to that child (grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.) If, like in this case, there are no close family members, custody may go to close friends of the family. The court system will look to award custody in the child’s best interest. However, they likely won’t be privy to the nuances of different relationship, and they most pertaining won’t know what your desires would be. A will allows you to make your opinion known and appoint an appropriate guardian. This way you can be sure that your child is looked after the way you want them to be. 


Leave Reources for an Unmarried Partner

These days many couples have opted to stay together long-term without legally marrying. This decision is an extremely personal choice, and what may work for one couple may not work for another. 

Unfortunately, unmarried partner’s aren’t always afforded the same legal rights that spouses are in terms of community property, inheritance, custody, survivorship, healthcare, and retirement . This means that, without a will in place, your partner may not receive what otherwise would be legally theirs.  

For example, let’s say that two partners live together on property owned solely by one partner. If the owning partner dies, the surviving party may not have the right to survivorship that a spouse would have. 

Specifying what you want to be left to your partner allows you to care for them beyond death.


Leave Real Estate in a Straightforward Way 

Whatever your family situation, leaving real estate can be complicated. If you are a sole owner and want to leave a piece of property to anyone besides your spouse, a will can help make that happen. Of course, in these cases it is also important to create a transfer on death deed, as these document take presidence over will designation for real estate. 


Orbit Wills is an online resource to create wills. However, with more complex wills pertaining to “non-traditional” families, it’s always best to talk to an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney.  Someone with knowledge of current laws can help you create a comprehensive plan that leaves nothing (and no one) out. 

Published 06/25/2022.