Can I keep stepchildren out of my estate plan? In the ideal scenario, you have a great relationship with your children and your stepchildren and intend to treat them as equals when it comes to inheritances. However, parents in second marriages may want to leave assets to their children and try to make sure that their stepchildren don’t inherit. If stepchildren inherit, it can create resentment leading to legal disputes that can cost the estate significantly in delay and attorney fees. Beck & Lenox Estate Planning and Elder Law has seen too many situations like that.
AOL’s recent article, “How to Protect Assets From Stepchildren,” says that taking specific estate planning steps will let you effectively protect your assets from stepchildren.
If a stepchild inherits some of your assets, your children may feel cheated out of their rightful inheritance. Therefore, they may contest any awards to stepchildren to protect their interests.
Your children will be recognized as heirs to your estate even without a will naming them as beneficiaries. Stepchildren don’t have the same rights.
In most cases, they won’t inherit from a deceased stepparent’s estate unless specifically listed as beneficiaries in the will. However, stepchildren still may receive assets from your estate if your spouse dies after you and leaves assets to their children. Preventing stepchildren from ever getting assets from your estate can be done. However, it requires definite action to exclude them as beneficiaries.
If your spouse from a second or later marriage dies first, you usually don’t have to do anything to prevent stepchildren from receiving assets you control.
Even after an intestate death that happens without a valid will, stepchildren typically aren’t recognized as having any right to assets in the estate. However, some states grant stepchildren some rights of inheritance. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about this.
In addition, a will can name specific people, including stepchildren, and exclude them from receiving benefits from the estate.
Using a trust, you can ALSO prevent stepchildren from getting assets from your estate after you die.
This can help avoid conflicts and potential litigation from children upset because stepchildren received assets from the estate.
Remember that if you fail to act, stepchildren can still benefit even at the expense of your children. An example of this would be if you die before your spouse, and your spouse then names their children as beneficiaries of the estate. Reach out to an experienced estate attorney like the ones at Beck & Lenox, to protect your children.
Reference: AOL (April 26, 2023) “How to Protect Assets From Stepchildren”