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Why the changing definition of ‘family’ matters for estate plans

Financial giant UBS recently released the results from a study that shows just how much the definition of “family” has changed over the years, and why that matters for the estate planning world.

The study revealed that a whopping 34 percent of the high-net-worth or affluent investors who were surveyed said that they are part of “modern” family arrangements, including blended families, same-sex families and families with parents and adult children living together. (Thirty-five percent of respondents said that they live in traditional families, while 31 percent were single or heterosexual couples without children.)

 Interestingly, while close to 50 percent of the WWII/swing generation lived with a “traditional” family, the same can be said for only 25 percent of millennials, ThinkAdvisor reported.

So what does this mean for estate planning?

As one might guess, the estate planning needs for a “modern” family may be much different than the estate planning needs of a “traditional” family, so it’s extremely important that people are working with advisers who can make sure that their individual needs are met.

As USB concluded in a statement, the financial industry must also “start addressing the complexities of modern families” as family dynamics continue to shift in the country.

For example, inheritances can be much more complex in blended families as one or both spouses may have children from prior relationships that need to be taken care of. Individuals must decide how their spouse’s children -- as well as their own children -- should be treated in an estate plan.

In UBS’s survey, 67 percent of respondents with blended families said that they didn’t know how their wealth and assets would be divided, while 50 percent of respondents with traditional families said the same.

As modern families continue to become more common, effective estate planning will only become more important. If you are part of a modern family, make sure to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer to make sure all of your and your family’s unique needs are met.

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