Including Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan

Share this post

Adding Stepchildren to Your Estate Plan Requires Specifics

Getting specific is always important in estate planning, but it is especially crucial when it comes to blended families. A stepchild cannot automatically inherit from a stepparent, you must create or update your estate plan as soon as stepchildren enter your life. Neglecting to do so will lead to inheritance issues with your stepchildren and biological children after your death. Understanding how to include stepchildren in your will and other estate planning documents will ensure that your estate plan accurately reflects your wishes.

List Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan

Many stepparents love their stepchildren as their own; it may come as a surprise that emotional bond is not protected by law. Laws of inheritance apply to biological children and formally adopted children. If you do not have the legal relationship, you need to make clear you wish your estate to benefit your stepchildren.

Frequently, an estate plan leaves all remaining property to children, equally. This type of language will only apply to biological and adopted children. Even if you don’t have biological children, your estate planning lawyer will advise your stepchildren still won’t have rights to your estate. Instead, if you die without a spouse and without a will, your natural heirs will be blood relatives, meaning your property could pass to distant relations who you don’t even see, rather than to the people you helped raise.

Steps to Include Your Stepchildren

If you wish for your stepchildren to receive an inheritance, you must clearly document your wishes in your estate planning. Work with your estate planning lawyer to create a detailed will or trust that specifically includes your stepchildren in your class of beneficiaries. You can also name them as beneficiaries on life insurance or IRAs. This can be a nice option if you do not want your biological children feeling slighted, as they will not see who the other named beneficiaries are or how much they were provided.

Please keep in mind that if your biological children are someone else’s stepchildren you need run into problems as well. Should you get remarried and then pass away, leaving everything to your spouse, they could pass all to their biological children, effectively cutting off your own children. For this reason, trusts are frequently used in blended families to provide for a surviving spouse, but also ensure your children are not deprived of assets.

Blended families are common and ensuring your wishes are clear and honored merely takes a little effort with a skilled planning attorney.