J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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How can family disputes be avoided when there are two families?

For people in Florida, estate planning can be a complex issue. If there are significant assets, the asset distribution of the decedent might have various factors tied into it. Making an estate plan is usually the way to avoid any family disputes after the person's death, but if there is a second family that has been involved, there will often be ill will between the sides if the estate planning is not how the families envisioned. Certain factors must be considered and accounted for to avoid unpleasantness and litigation.

The amount of time that the families were together is an important factor. Some couples began their second marriage early in life. If there were children, they might see the new parent as a second parent rather than a step-parent. When the biological children and the step-children are, emotionally indistinguishable, the estate plan should account for that. Making sure the second wife or husband is taken care of is fair, but that should not be done at the expense of the biological children from the first marriage. If there are younger children from the second marriage, it's easy to foresee there being family disputes if they are the ones who fare better in the asset distribution.

Having a real plan as to how property and assets will be split can avoid the family battling over everything after the asset holder's death. A family home can be a lucrative piece of property and it's human nature that all the children will want a piece of it. If there is one particular offspring who has been living in the property, helped with the upkeep and perhaps even the payments, then the parent might want that child to have the property. If so, it needs to be clearly stated in the will.

While it may seem morbid to openly discuss a person's death and what will happen to their property after the fact, it's a sound decision to do so to. There are numerous reasons to talk about these issues while the individual is still alive. A person who truly cares that their families have a cordial relationship after passing won't mind having these issues settled to the satisfaction of all. Of course, as with anything that could lead to legal problems, it's always a wise decision to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney before putting anything in writing.

Source: TheStreet.com, "6 Things to Consider When Estate Planning for Your Second Family," Kathryn Tuggle, accessed on Sept. 2, 2014

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