A lot of people are part of a blended family. It’s important for those in this type of family to make sure that stepchildren are incorporated into their estate planning process.
Many stepparents love and care for their stepchildren as their own children, and they may not be aware that this emotional bond is not one that is protected by law. Laws of inheritance do not apply to stepchildren unless they are formally adopted. Without a legal relationship to your step children, you will need to be clear in your estate plan that you wish for your estate to benefit them.
Often, remaining property is left to children equally in estate plans. However, this type of language only applies to biological and adopted children. Although people believe their family will understand the decedent’s wishes and share things evenly, this is not always the case.
If you only have stepchildren and do not have biological children, your stepchildren will still not have rights to your estate. If you do not have a spouse and do not have a will in place when you pass away, the heirs that your property will pass to will be blood relatives. Depending on your situation, your property could go to distant relatives that you don’t see instead of stepchildren you helped raise.
Be explicit and specific with estate planning
You will need to clearly document your wishes in your estate planning if you wish for your stepchildren to receive an inheritance. Your estate planning lawyer can help you create a will or trust that includes your stepchildren as beneficiaries. Stepchildren can also be named as beneficiaries on life insurance or IRAs. This is a good option if you are worried about your biological children feeling slighted since they cannot see who the other beneficiaries are or how much you left for them.
If your biological children are someone’s stepchildren, keep in mind that if you get remarried and leave everything to your spouse when you die, that person could pass everything to their biological children and leave none of the inheritance to your biological children. Because of this, trusts are often used in blended families to ensure that a surviving spouse will be provided for and that none of your children will be left without an inheritance.
For those in blended families, it’s important to make sure that your wishes are clearly communicated in your estate plan.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.