Getting Along

Tom Sedoric

ONE OUT OF SIX of our nation’s children lives in a blended family, with 40% of today’s marriages defined as blended, meaning that one or both spouses had been previously married. I live in one of those blended households.

Three decades ago, the data on children from “broken families” weren’t encouraging. I can happily debunk that early data, which didn’t give our family much hope. My two exceptional stepchildren, and our biological daughter, are all productive and contributing adults. Thirty years after we married, Barb and I often reflect on our good fortune.

Still, what families—blended or not—don’t know is whether the children will get along and behave after the parents pass on. Is there a clear estate plan in place, are the beneficiaries aware of their parents’ wishes and will they be honored? Have the parents sat down and described their expectations in honoring their wishes for property, assets and personal effects? I would encourage you to do so.

Rick Connor, a frequent contributor to this site, recently reflected on his legacy and contribution. As a fellow aging boomer with his 70th birthday under his belt, I can happily empathize. Professionally, I know of too many circumstances where wishes have not been clearly stated, estate plans left unattended, and feuds or skirmishes have arisen over money or possessions.

I even know of one family where a half-brother openly extorted funds from his half-siblings, despite the estate plan created by the departed generation. Money and possessions often bring out the worst in people, when the circumstances should bring out the best.

Are Barb’s and my wishes clearly stated and memorialized? We think so, and we expect our offspring and blended family to “play nicely in the sandbox” when we’re gone. Are there any guarantees? No. But we did include a provision in our estate documents that, if anyone questions our intent, he or she runs the risk of losing out on any inheritance. And while we’re still around, perhaps for a decade or two longer, we’ll continue to make clear our expectations for when we’re not here.

If you’re a member of this blended demographic, I encourage you to take the time to plan, memorialize and discuss your plans. That way, you’re less likely to leave a mess when you become a memory on the wall.

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