Polyamory and your estate plan

This post is for our poly pals with more than one spouse…this may look like one married spouse + one or more de facto spouses, or more than one de facto spouse.

Complex family arrangements make it important for you to get legal advice. Keep in mind this post is a general overview on estate planning when you have more than one spouse.  #NotLegalAdvice

Estate planning when you have more than one spouse…there’s SO much to talk about.

This is where law based estate planning fuses with people care. We’re totally here for it.

When estate planning in a poly relationship, you have all the usual considerations for estate planning with added complexity of more people to plan for and relationship dynamics to consider.

In this post we cover how to approach your poly estate plan + what happens to your assets without one.

Estate plan = set for success

Your estate plan covers two events:

  • death [self explanatory…#RIP]
  • loss of capacity [when you can no longer make decisions for yourself]

Care + consideration needed

The first phase in your estate plan is a deep dive on your relationships, property, and goals for your plan.

Chat with your lawyer about your relationship matrix. Who are your spouses, if they have other spouses, any children, dynamics of relationships, each person’s family.

Then look to assets and liabilities. Who owns and owes what. How property is used by everyone in your relationship matrix. What their current needs are and what their future needs might be.

Ensure you’re working with a lawyer that takes time to get to know you + your loved ones, consider options to achieve your estate plan goals, and [this is really important!] reality tests those options with you. You don’t want to end up with a plan that sets your loved ones up for failure or future conflict.

Snippet of things to think about…

You have more VIPs to plan for and that comes with some considerations, for example…

Property gifting: how are assets being split + what future needs to be met? What asset protection might be needed for spouses and children? Who will manage your estate?

Children: what guardianship arrangements are appropriate? Are your spouses’ kids included in your Will? All of them? Some of them? Your estate may be at risk of future claims.

Family conflict: what else needs to be recorded or discussed to reduce possible future conflict between spouses and families?

Decision making: who will make decisions about your health and assets if you can’t make decisions for yourself? Who is going to plan your funeral? One spouse? Both/all spouses jointly? There are a lot of options here.

If you die without a Will

If you die without a Will, you’ve died “intestate”.

This means you’ve opted into the rules of intestacy – it’s kind of like a Will our government puts in place for you if you don’t already have one.

The rules of intestacy are a one-size-fits-all formula for gifting your assets.

Under the rules of intestacy your spouses are entitled to part of your estate. There is no adjustment if you have a primary spouse or hierarchal relationship. The amount your spouses are entitled to depends on whether you’re also survived by any children.

Your spouses may come to an agreement about what each of them will receive from your estate.

They may also apply for a Court order [cue stress, costs, and delays] setting out what each spouse is to receive or for one spouse to receive 100% of your estate.

Without an agreement or Court order, your spouses will equally share the part of your estate they’re entitled to.

 You need to talk specifics

It’s important for everyone to get estate planning legal advice– even in vanilla families [everybody’s going to die someday!]. Where there’s complex family arrangements it’s even more important as there’s more room for error and potential for conflict between loved ones [hello stress + legal costs!].

There are as many ways to customise your estate plan as there are different relationships. Without an estate plan, your loved ones are locked into the ‘one size fits all’ approach decided by our government. [think that will match your loved ones’ needs??]

The biggest takeaway – get your estate plan sorted so that you have options to tailor your plan to suit you and your loved ones…not get stuck with the one-size-fits-all approach decided by our government.

[….and if we can add a follow up takeaway – set yourself up with a lawyer that takes time to get to know you + reality test your estate plan options with you. There’s little point having a plan if it sets your loved ones up for future failure!].

SWE circle

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