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Modern family structures call for flexible estate planning

With the majority of families in South Carolina deviating from "traditional" (opposite-sex married partners with biological children), estate planning can become more complicated. People might have to consider whether or not their biological children and stepchildren will inherit similar amounts. Cohabiting couples might lack the same legal rights as legally married couples in the event of incapacity or death. Their estate plans would need to address issues that the law might not automatically cover. Modern developments in estate planning legal tools and language have emerged to help people in nontraditional families introduce flexibility into their plans and avoid unintentionally excluding loved ones.

For example, a carefully worded power of appointment could give someone the ability to redirect trust assets if family circumstances change. Estate owners might also choose to include a special type of trust agent known as a trust protector who can oversee a trust and replace a trustee if necessary. The distribution terms within a trust need not be set in stone either. A plan might grant an institutional trustee discretionary powers when making distributions.

A family concerned about possible scrivener errors, especially regarding heirs who are members of the transgender community, could install decanting provisions within a trust document. These provisions could let the trustee correct mistakes or merge assets into a new trust.

The creation of a trust within an estate plan requires careful judgment of desired outcomes and possible future problems. During a legal consultation, a person might learn about legal issues that could influence the distribution and taxation of assets. An attorney may explain appropriate estate planning strategies and ways to reduce uncertainty. Legal counsel might recommend how to select trustees and suggest best practices for communicating an estate plan to family members.

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