Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oops, I Died and Didn't Plan My Estate... Now What?

What happens in blended families when a partner passes away? Doing the work of estate planning is one that many partners put off for the future. Although we know this aspect of our lives needs attention, we may not take the time needed to adequately plan for our loved ones in the event of our death. This is especially true in the case of blended families. We each may have children from a prior relationship, possibly children together as well.

Planning for eventualities such as serious illness or even death may not be the most pleasant of tasks, but it is one that pays big dividends when done in a timely manner. Making decisions for ourselves while healthy gives our loved ones the information they need to properly carry out our wishes when we can no longer do so.

Many decisions must be made. Who will care for the minor children? What provisions will be made for children from prior relationships? How will inheritances be divided? What has to be done to protect current partners from losing assets or a home to adult children wanting their inheritance at once? What does one partner do to take care of another in the event of terminal illness, coma or worse? What kind of arrangements need to be made for funerals or burials? Should the partners assets be placed in a trust? Is a power of attorney necessary? If so, what kind? What is a living will and who needs one?

Questions such as these should be directed to an attorney who specializes in estate planning. The lawyers will be able to answer these questions, as well as raise many others pertinent to each partnership's situation. Look for a firm that comes highly recommended. Estate planning is a field that is continually changing. An estate planning attorney must also be knowledgeable about the laws of the state in which the partners reside, as laws vary from state to state.

When we have completed our estate planning, we share our future plans with our heirs. This enables all those involved to have appropriate expectations. We cannot control how others may feel or behave during times of loss, but we can take care of details and arrangements to make that time as easy as possible.

Planning for our own futures in this way is another tool we have to use for self care. We increase our self esteem as we arrange for the appropriate distribution of our estate to our heirs. We make arrangements to care for our partner as agreed indicating the value of our relationship. We use our tools and practice self care giving ourselves the gift of peace.

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