It bears repeating that navigating probate is not always easy. The complexity of the process is likely what leads to so many online articles about avoiding probate altogether, even though that idea is not as simple as it sounds.
However, it is the emotional aspect that often adds complications to probate. Administering an estate while processing and grieving a loved one’s death can be overwhelming for families. Dealing with the complexities of probate can become even more challenging for some blended families.
Three emotional challenges of probate for blended families
Families can become complex after a divorce or a second marriage. The new arrangement of the family tree can make both estate planning and probate complicated legally and financially.
Even so, there are other, more emotional factors that blended families should be aware of when it comes to probate:
- Time and distance can affect them more: As time goes on, children grow and start their own families. They might move to a new city or state. This is common for all families. However, this can be uniquely complex for blended families, as highlighted by Forbes. Stepchildren and stepparents might fall out of touch after the death of a loved one, leading biological children to be omitted from inheriting the stepparent’s property – which could include their biological parent’s assets under California’s community property rules.
- More opinions can lead to more problems: While a blended family does not necessarily equal a larger family, it does often involve more opinions and thoughts regarding the correct way to administer an estate. Spouses and ex-spouses, as well as stepsiblings, might disagree about the administration of the estate – particularly if the estate plan is not clear.
- Emotions and finances make matters complex: Disputes are not always personal. Even when siblings and stepsiblings get along well, the combination of grief and stress over finances can quickly erupt into disagreements and disputes over how to handle estate and probate matters.
These three issues are not nearly the only ones that can impact blended families after they lose a loved one. Every family is unique, after all. However, these three do play a role in creating complications for families.
How can blended families mitigate these issues?
Thankfully, there are ways that families can handle these complications. Of course, a detailed estate plan can significantly reduce the chance of disputes. It can also help families to:
- Be aware: If the members of a blended family are aware of the potential issues they could face, it can help them manage these issues before they appear – and before they can escalate into disputes.
- Be open: AARP reports that having clear and open conversations can help families avoid disputes as well. In particular, it can help if siblings communicate effectively and try to stay on the same page.
When families face probate, it is not an easy time in their lives. Making efforts to understand potential issues and work together can make all the difference for blended families in these situations.