Aging Population and Blended Families Create Estate Planning Challenges

The aging population of the United States and the changing makeup of the modern American family have led to new considerations and challenges when it comes to creating an estate plan in Nevada. Adults considering creating a will may feel constrained by the planning preferences of second or third spouses and stepchildren while at the same time have to face health care decisions for elderly parents who have greater financial needs than previous generations.

The number of people in the U.S. age 65 and older is 40 million, or 13 percent of the population, which is the greatest number it has ever been. That number is expected to grow, and by 2050 those age 65 and older will make up one-fifth of the U.S. population.

The longer people live the more financial and health care resources they will need in old age. The greater use of personal wealth to pay for a longer life can reduce the prospect of other family members receiving an inheritance if any assets are left over after long-term care. Often adult children believe retirement benefits and Medicare will cover the cost of their parents' care. The issue of inheritance is further complicated when an adult child must care for an aging parent.

Often adult children who cared for aging parents believe they deserve more of an inheritance than siblings who provided little care or who lived far from home. And too often the adult children who provide care are tempted to use the savings of their parents before they pass because they believe it will be theirs eventually. In reverse, aging parents may use the prospect of inheritance as a carrot to induce adult children into providing care as they age. When it comes to writing a will or creating an estate plan, the distribution of assets equitably creates fewer issues.

Adults caring for aging parents may also feel pressure from their own family, especially if it's blended. Blended families with stepparents and stepchildren are common in the U.S., and related estate planning issues are also becoming more common. Step-family members can sometimes throw a wrench into the estate planning process. For example, one spouse may want the other spouse to divide his or her assets evenly between all the children, or an adult child may be left title to his or her parent's house in order to protect the house from creditors as a stepparent continues to live in the house.

Planning ahead and discussing issues while parents are still alive is important and can save family members from hurt feelings. Planning should at the latest begin when family members first show signs of weakening health and before a family member is put in an assisted-living facility. Those planning should realize that memories may be more important than money. Therefore, sentimental items may have more value than assets to some family members. Talk those considerations out and start from a position of fairness when dividing assets. If an asset or object cannot be divided, an unbiased process like flipping a coin or drawing straws can determine the decision.

If you are considering creating a will, contact an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.