At least one third of the children living in the U.S. are expected to live in a blended family before the age of 18, and that number is growing. With this in mind, estate planning for blended families faces a set of unique challenges, and makes working with an estate planning attorney all the more critical.
Some of the tips and facts you may not be aware of when it comes to creating a will or planning an estate if you are a parent with stepchildren:
1. A stepchild has no inheritance rights unless they were legally adopted by the deceased. Many of the laws governing estates specifically refer to the ‘issue’ of the deceased, meaning natural children or children legally adopted by the deceased.
2. Updating estate planning documents when entering into a second marriage is critical. Any significant life change should trigger a review of estate planning documents, particularly in the case of divorce, marriage, birth or adoption of children.
3. Should a will simply divide the estate of the deceased amongst children, without more specifics, stepchildren could be inadvertently omitted. Creating a will can be more complex when there is a stepfamily involved, therefore, forms and DIY estate planning “kits” should be avoided. Speaking of which…
4. Some of the “do-it-yourself” will kits do not take stepchildren into account when preparing the will forms.
Blended families should take special care when preparing estate planning documents, as they face challenges in ensuring their estates are distributed according to their wishes. Working with an estate planning attorney ensures that your estate plan reflects your family’s needs and goals.