Factoring Stepchildren into Your Estate Plan

Blended families are more common than ever, but they can also present unique estate planning considerations. Unless you adopt your stepchildren, they do not automatically have inheritance rights. Furthermore, it’s possible for your adopted and/or biological children to be disinherited after subsequent marriages. It is important that you and your spouse create an estate plan to ensure your wishes are honored as you intended.

Common issues with stepchildren and estate plans

If you had an estate plan before you remarried, or married someone with existing children, be sure to update that plan as soon as possible. Your old estate plan may still be valid, in whole or in part. This can have unintended consequences, such as distributing assets that no longer exist, or leaving them to your former spouse.

Your own children may be disinherited without a proper estate plan, too. For example, if you die before your spouse, they may be entitled to your entire estate. When they die, their estate will likely go to their own children, leaving yours without any inheritance at all.

Finally, your children and stepchildren may receive unequal assets. When one spouse brings significantly larger assets into a marriage, it can get complicated. Unless there’s an estate plan to divide assets equally, one set of children could receive more than another—or nothing at all.

Creating a fair estate plan for children and stepchildren

When you create a blended family, try to discuss your estate plan before you tie the knot. This will help everyone get on the same page, so you can create a fair plan. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is there a large disparity between your financial situations?
  • Who will inherit if you or your spouse die before the other?
  • Can you agree to an equal division of property between each child?
  • Who gets the family heirlooms?
  • How will you handle long-term healthcare and retirement?

While it’s difficult to plan for every contingency, working with an estate planning attorney will reduce potential issues significantly. For example, you can set up trusts for your children to ensure they inherit part of your estate, even if you die before your spouse, and your will can designate which heirlooms go to which family member.

James Bart Leonardi, LLC can help you create a comprehensive estate plan to provide for all of your family members, new and old. Call us today to learn more and schedule a consultation.

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