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Estate planning for non-traditional family groups

In today's society, there are very few Pennsylvania families that fit the traditional mold. In fact, the very idea of the "traditional" family is being redefined, as people form connections that create an intricate web of loved ones. However, when it comes to estate planning, accommodating an individual's wishes to include family members from different relationships can be a challenge.

For example, consider a scenario in which a husband and wife are both married for the second time. If the husband wants to leave the bulk of his assets to his wife, this is easy to accomplish through the use of a will. However, if he wants to ensure that any assets that remain after her death will pass on to his children from the previous marriage, this will require a more structured approach.

A trust is the best way to clearly outline the desire to provide for both a spouse and adult children. The trust can be drafted in such a way that the surviving spouse will have the full ability to access assets during the remainder of her life. In addition, those assets will be passed on to the designated children when the time comes. Having this intention in writing will also help the family have a clear understanding of one's wishes, and can reduce tension between surviving heirs.

Pennsylvania families should take the time to assess if their family structure is such that a unique estate planning solution is needed. The central goal of any estate plan is to provide for the smooth and successful transfer of wealth to one's intended heirs, while preserving the greatest amount of that wealth as possible. There is an estate planning package solution that can meet those goals, no matter how one's family is structured.

Source:, "MAKING CENTS: Estate planning for non-traditional relationships", John Napolitano, Nov. 22, 2014

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