Blended families are on the rise. National Divorce Rates have increased and it’s thought that around 40% of new marriages include at least one person who was previously married. This all suggest it’s becoming less likely for people to remain with their original partner their entire lives.
Many of those remarriages involve children who are entering the world of “steps”—stepmothers, stepfathers, step siblings, step-grandparents.
As our society evolves, it’s often necessary to refine existing laws to better reflect changes. That said, we all know it can take time for the legal system to catch up with new ways of living…
What is a “blended family”?
In its most basic sense, a blended family is one where the parents have children from previous relationships, but all the members come together as one family unit. A blended family can also be referred to as a stepfamily, reconstituted family, or a complex family.
The parents may be in a same sex or heterosexual relationship and may not have children with each other.
Blended Families: Married Partners
The parents of a blended family may be married, for example, after a divorce or death of a previous spouse. One of both partners may have biological and/or adopted children, that come together to form one family unit.
Blended Families: Cohabiting Partners
Modern blended families may also not have married parents. Cohabiting parents can both serve as role models for the children without being married. Cohabiting partners may have biological children from previous relationships or have adopted children and/or have children with their current partner, too.
Blended Families: Adoption
In many cases, the non-biological parent will adopt the other’s children, but not always. To make an adoption formal, both biological parents (except in the case of a death), will need to approve the adoption. Making an adoption formal gives the new stepparent legal authority with the children. This includes being able to (legally) authorise emergency medical care and the responsibility to help provide care if the parents’ relationship ends.
Why Blended Families Should Have Wills
Did you know that without a Last Will and Testament the biggest problems can occur after a partner or parent’s death?
It is important to put a Will in place before death, to avoid risks of having your estate divided up against your wishes. This is especially true for unmarried couples and blended families.
Many people believe that a so-called ‘common law marriage’ confers the same legal protections as being legally married. This is not true.
Put simply, if you are not married, or have not entered into a civil partnership, and you die without a Will, your partner will not automatically inherit your estate. Regardless of if you were in a long-term and very loving relationship. Your partner could potentially be left with nothing.
A Typical Scenario…
A typical scenario we see often, is when a client has children from a previous relationship and no will.
Depending upon the value of their estate, the estate will pass first to their spouse or civil partner, then to the children of that spouse or civil partner, potentially leaving their other children from a previous relationship with nothing.
Nobody wants to be in positions such as these and it can cause worry for the future. That is why it should be a priority to discuss your estate with a qualified legal expert and have them draw up a will which reflects your choices. It is also important people know where that will is and detail any other wishes you may have; such as for your funeral. This will give you peace of mind for later life, that your loved ones will be looked after as you wish.
Planning ahead and arranging matters for after your death can avoid a great deal of distress during what will certainly be a very difficult time for your loved ones.