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Families come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own dynamics and challenges.

A couple with two children may no longer be the norm in the changing Australian family landscape, which now includes stepfamilies, blended families, and grandparent-led families.

 

For instance, in Australia, the proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years was 47% in 2017*.

 

As families dissolve through separation and divorce, or because of the death of a partner, there is an increasing possibility of new family structures being created.

 

A portrait of Australian families

 

Step and blended families comprise about 10% of modern family units, according to the last national census in 2016.

 

In a stepfamily, there is at least one child who is the natural or adopted child of only one of the partners, while in a blended family there are two or more children of whom at least one child is the natural or adopted child of both partners and at least one child who is the stepchild of one of them**.

 

Grandparent-led families, which are defined as a family where there is a grandparent-grandchild relationship and no parent-child relationship***, are becoming increasingly significant too. At the last census there were more than 60,000 grandparent families in Australia.

 

Managing family finances in a family unit

 

Managing finances is one of the main challenges faced by any family. There are many aspects to consider and hard choices to be made around questions ranging from how you would like to pay for education needs and save for the future, to how you would like to divide your assets or provide for a surviving partner and children.

 

Blended families are no different, only can be more complicated. It’s important to acknowledge these potential complexities and plan for the protection, control and transfer of your wealth.

 

At first glance, pooling the resources of both partners may make financial sense as it can create a more stable financial base for the family than could otherwise be provided as single parents. Recent studies show that regardless of employment status, 70% of single mothers face financial hardship and struggle to meet their general living expenses. Many find that when they remarry, combined assets, incomes, and personal resources help to provide an instant sense of security.

 

However, blended families and stepfamilies also often face complex challenges while building and protecting their wealth. A possible scenario is when parents attempt to protect and provide for their children from a previous relationship whilst also providing for a new spouse. If the new spouse also has children from a previous marriage, the situation may become further complicated.

 

Inheritance feuds on the rise

 

When children do not share the same parents and grandparents, sometimes things can get complicated, especially when it comes to wealth transfer.

 

In fact, the rise in the number of blended families is quoted as the cause for the sharp increase in inheritance feuds. Over the last 10 years, legal battles over inheritances have increased by 80%. While family disputes are thought to account for about 8 in 10 of all legal actions, legal cases for blended and estranged families now constitute the vast majority of disputes over wills****.

 

In blended and stepfamilies, arguments over inheritance are not just a symptom of sibling rivalry. Disputes can occur between surviving partners or spouses and children, while grandparents are also often seen taking a stand against the surviving spouse and children.

 

 

Divide your wealth without dividing your family

 

At Futurity, our Family Education Bonds can help parents and grandparents in blended and stepfamilies manage financial complexities.

 

For these purposes, the Family Education Bond:

  • can work like your own special purpose ‘education’ family trust to simplify some of the complexities of wills and estates
  • allows you to create multiple family bonds for each limb of a large family group or for philanthropic purposes
  • has a flexible structure that gives you full control and access to your funds at any time allowing you to make choices and plan ahead to ensure your beneficiaries, or a single beneficiary, receive a benefit from you tax free
  • may be used as investment assets inside family trusts or education trusts or for deceased estate investments
  • may be used as a dedicated investment for education funding of children, say in the circumstance of a divorce or family break up
  • offers a tax-effective, long-term investment strategy.

Whatever your wishes, our built-in financial and estate planning features can give you control over how your wealth is distributed and the certainty that your wishes will be carried out.

 

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