Do Stepchildren Have Inheritance Rights?
You naturally want to leave your earthly possessions to the people you love most when you pass away. For some of you, those people may include stepchildren.
But do your stepchildren automatically have inheritance rights like your other children? No.
“Unless you’ve adopted them, your stepchildren have no legal right to an inheritance from you – even if you die without a will.” -lawyers.com
That means that in order to inherit, you must specifically name your stepchildren in your will and estate plan; they don’t just automatically receive an inheritance if you don’t make a point to set things up that way.
If you were to pass away without an estate plan, the state would divide your assets between either your spouse and biological children, or your closest living relatives. Stepchildren do not have inheritance rights unless you have legally adopted them.
(Related: What Happens If I Die Without A Will?)
Estate Planning with Stepchildren
We believe a good estate plan should:
-provide and protect your loved ones
-avoid family conflict, leave your personal legacy behind
-preserve special memories
-ease your loved ones’ burdens that relate to your passing
(Click here to read about these goals in more detail.)
A lot goes into accomplishing those monumental goals, but deciding who you’ll divide your assets between is a huge part of it.
We want our clients with blended families to experience all the same benefits as purely biological families, even though the dynamics may be a little different.
You can make your stepchildren a part of your estate plan by clearly stating your wishes for how they should inherit. Most people do this in one of three ways:
Leave them a gift from or a percentage of your estate in your will:
Name your stepchild as part of your will like you would any other beneficiary. You can designate them a set amount or direct that they receive a percentage of whatever your estate is worth at the time of your death.
Make them a beneficiary of a trust:
You can create a trust and make them the Executor or beneficiary. You can even create a Minor’s Trust or a Special-needs Trust for stepchildren who are under age or who are challenged physically or mentally.
Make them a beneficiary of your life insurance policy or a financial account:
Some accounts and policies, such as life insurance and retirement funds, are not included in what a will addresses. You can gift some of these funds to your stepchildren by designating them as beneficiaries on the accounts.
Questions to Ask about Your Blended Family
Blended families face challenges that purely biological families often don’t have to, and though stepchildren don’t have automatic inheritance rights, it doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to provide for them.
We work with blended families often, and we talk to each of our clients about their interpersonal relationships in order to help guide them toward the right course of action for their loved ones.
So before you head into an estate planning consultation, it helps to ask yourself questions like these:
- Do you feel you have tight-knit interpersonal relationships with all of your family members?
- Are there concerns with one or more people in your “new” family?
- Have you considered adopting your stepchild or stepchildren?
- What are the pros and cons of including your stepchildren in your estate plan?
Estate Planning with Joshua E. Hummer, Esq.
If you’ve considered your family dynamics and decided that adding your stepchildren into your estate plan is best for you and them, there are several ways to leave them an inheritance. Let us help you consider each option more in-depth so that you can make the right choice for the people you love.
Click here to request your free estate planning consultation today.