Protect Your Stepchildren in Your Plan

Protect Your Stepchildren in Your Plan Image

Half of families in America have special estate planning issues because they are blended families.

What do we mean by blended family? Families where some of the children are the wife’s, some are the father’s and others are the biological offspring of both. There are many variations on this theme, but the families are blended by the current relationship.

Even if the current relationship is a legal marriage, the children will not inherit equally when one parent dies unless a will or trust clearly says that will happen.

Here’s an example. We worked with a couple who had two children together and a third child who was the wife’s from a previous marriage. The husband wants to make sure that all three children are treated equally when he dies.

In general, the stepchild is not considered the husband’s legal heir. If the husband/father dies without a will or trust, that child is not legally entitled to any of his estate. So, even if the father has expressed his wishes to his wife and the other children, without proper legal documentation, any of them could ignore his wishes and cut the stepchild out of any inheritance.

If a minor stepchild’s biological father is living, he may have certain rights while you are alive and when you die. He may have authority in health care decisions if the child is injured and might have a claim for compensation if the child is injured and dies. He may inherit if the child dies without a will

It is important for the wife/mother to have an estate plan stating how all of the children should inherit when she dies. A trust could be structured so that all three children are treated equally and it could specifically prohibit her former spouse from controlling any property.

A qualified estate planning attorney can draft a will and trust to protect the children in this type of household to avoid the mistakes. For example, if you simply reference "my children," in a DIY will, only your biological children will benefit.

Sound complicated? It can be very complicated. But, we are here to examine all of your wishes, consider all of the ‘what ifs’ and draft a plan that suits your needs. Give us a call if you are ready to start. 302-651-0113.