Let’s talk about stepchildren, step grandchildren and stepparents. Please start by watching this video.
Then, take your time and identify your goals. There are no right or wrong decisions – only what works best for you and your family. It is important to keep in mind that unless you have adopted your stepchildren, they generally have no legal right to inherit anything from you at your passing. Similarly, if you are a grandparent, your step-grandchildren will have no legal right to inherit from you if your child has not adopted them. If you want to leave money or property to them, you must specifically name them in your estate plan, or list them as beneficiaries directly to your financial assets.
Have in mind that if you remarry and leave all your money and property to your new spouse in your will, he or she is free to leave any remaining amounts to their children (and to leave nothing to your own children) at his or her death, even if that is against your wishes. Likewise, if you are a grandparent and leave money or property to your adult child, and that child dies before his or her new spouse, then the new spouse could receive any remaining amounts and is free to spend it or leave it to his or her own children. Your child’s spouse would not be under any obligation to leave the remaining money or property to your biological grandchildren.
Many factors will have an impact on your estate planning decisions, especially when you remarry and your new spouse has children, or if one of your adult children is in that situation. The decision about whether to provide for your stepchildren or step-grandchildren in your Will or Trust is an important and often emotionally difficult decision. The following factors are among those in play:
- Age. When you remarry, the ages of both you and your new spouse and the ages of your stepchildren often have an impact on estate planning decisions. If you and your new spouse are older and both financially independent, and all of your children are adults, it may make sense for each of you to leave your assets to your own natural heirs. However, if you and your new spouse are young adults, and your spouse’s children are quite young, it is more likely your new spouse and stepchildren will be dependent on you for financial support and that you will play a significant role in raising your stepchildren. In this case, you may decide to provide for your stepchildren in your estate plan to some extent or even in the same way you have for your own children. Grandparents are likely to weigh similar considerations in determining whether to include their step-grandchildren in their estate plan. Your decision will depend upon the unique situation of your blended family.
- Relationship. Unfortunately, some people simply do not get along with their new spouse’s children or their step-grandchildren. Or, if the stepchildren are grown and live in a distant state or another country, there may not be much of a relationship at all. If this is the case, they may feel less inclined to provide for the stepchildren in their estate plan. In contrast, other individuals come to view their stepchildren with as much love and affection as they do their own children and may want to reflect this relationship in their estate plan.
- Heirlooms or other personal property. If one of your ancestors brought a special piece of furniture or jewelry from Ireland in the 1850s that has been passed down through the generations, you may want to ensure that it goes to your own children or grandchildren or to another blood relative when you pass away rather than to your new spouse and ultimately to your stepchildren. This may also be the case if you have items that belonged to a deceased spouse that are of sentimental value to your own children or other family members.
In conclusion, if you would like to ensure that your stepchildren or step-grandchildren are treated in the way you intend, it is important to consult us so that we can design or update your estate plan in a way that reflects your wishes.
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