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Estate Planning When You Have a Stepfamily

One of the best parts of your marriage was inheriting a son you have always wanted but could never have on your own. Blood could not make you both any closer, so it is only fair that you make provisions for him in your estate plan.

A blended family estate planning attorney is just what you need.

Statistics show that about 40% of American families are blended, with 13% of marriages being remarriages. On average, 1,300 blended families are formed each day. You are not alone. It is both kind and prudent to think about the future of the family you have inherited.

Make an appointment with Hegwood Law Group to learn what options may be available for your family.

What Happens To Your Children When You Don’t Have A Will

If you have developed a close relationship with a stepchild, you should ensure they are provided for in a will. Because your stepchildren are not considered your legal heirs under the Texas Estates Code, they will not receive any of your assets if you pass away without a will. Therefore, it is essential to have a will in place that considers any stepchildren for couples with younger children from prior marriages.

You can list your children and your spouse’s children from a previous marriage and may specify that your spouse’s child is to be treated as one of your children for the purpose of the will.

However, when you jointly own your home with your spouse, they will gain your interest in the property when you die if an agreement is in place. If your spouse passes without a will, their children (your stepchildren) will inherit the house under the laws of intestacy. In this way, your stepchild could eventually benefit from what is now in your estate.

Adoption of Stepchildren

Some couples do not legally adopt their stepchildren during the marriage. The rule is that stepchildren cannot inherit from their stepparents without a valid will. However, there is a small exception when a stepparent legally adopts their stepchild or commits to adopt the child but does not complete the process. In the latter case, the stepchild may inherit from their deceased stepparent if they can demonstrate the existence of a legal oral or written agreement pledging to adopt them.

Using a Trust To Provide for Stepchildren and Stepgrandchildren

The goal of a living trust — also known as a revocable living trust or a revocable trust — is to store assets for you while you are alive, so they can be given to whomever you please (such as a stepchild) after your death. To fulfill its fiduciary duty, the third party must prudently manage and distribute the assets per your instructions as the owner.

Houses, land, vehicles, bank accounts, and other assets can all be included in a living trust. Unless you say otherwise, any assets maintained in a living trust will be for your benefit during your lifetime. Your beneficiaries, including a named stepchild, can receive your assets far more rapidly through a trust than through a will.

Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning for a Stepfamily

I married someone with a child but later got divorced. I developed a relationship with their child and raised them as my own. Can I leave them something through my will?

You can bequeath to a stepchild or former stepchild if you so choose. If you include them in your will, stepchildren will always be able to inherit. You can give your stepchild a portion of your fortune through your will, make explicit bequests, or leave them as beneficiaries on financial accounts.

How can I provide for this stepchild?

When writing your will, avoid using the standard will terminology like “issue,” “children,” or “heirs” to refer to any more children you may have. Instead, name each stepchild using their full names and perhaps dates of birth. It is best to have them specifically identified.

I am the stepchild and want to ensure my stepparent benefits from my estate. Is that possible?

Stepparents will not inherit unless specific provisions are laid out in an estate plan. This could be in a will, trust, or some other mechanism. Call to schedule a complimentary strategy session with one of our team members.

How do I protect my assets from stepchildren?

You can exclude your stepchildren by name in your will. Consult with an estate planning professional at Hegwood Law Group about setting up a trust that would benefit your spouse during their life and transfer ownership of the property to a third party after your spouse passes away. This way, your spouse cannot leave your property to your stepchildren after they pass away.

At Hegwood Law Group, we currently offer complimentary strategy sessions for prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose. We understand how daunting the conversation may seem at first, but it is important to us that your questions are answered. With offices across the Greater Houston area, don’t delay in taking the first steps in organizing your estate! Contact us here.

Hegwood Law Group

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