Divorce is difficult on a family no matter what the circumstances. Even when a divorce is best for all involved, there is always an amount of stress and emotional trauma involved. In fact, it has recently become apparent that the effects of divorce—stress, family upheaval, and tighter finances—can last years into the future. Our firm works frequently to help divorced or remarrying couples update their estate plans to protect their new blended families, and we often see how the effects divorce can continue to have even as much as 20 or 30 years down the road—not just on the couple but on their grown children now acting as caregivers.
Adult children of aging parents often find themselves caring not only for mom and dad but also for stepmom, stepdad and sometimes even another stepparent from yet a third (and current) marriage. Dividing time (and often finances) between so many parents with new and special needs can quickly take its toll, as can the family politics that come with adult siblings, half siblings, and step siblings.
With all of this complexity and intermingling family ties, it is more important than ever to have conversations about estate planning and long-term care with parents and siblings before mom and dad (and stepmom and stepdad) get to an age where they need in-home or around the clock nursing care. A good estate plan can eliminate much potential fighting and confusion by clearly defining who will be making financial decisions and who should be making health care decisions when mom or dad become incapacitated. A caregiver agreement can provide financial assistance to the one sibling who inevitably ends up shouldering most of the care giving burden.
If you are a part of a blended family don’t wait for time to take its toll; talk to your parents and siblings now about any challenges the future may bring—and how to meet those challenges together.