The nature of the modern American family has been changing over the years. Blended families have become more common in the last few decades, leading many parents to wonder about the inheritance rights of their children. If you are the parent of adopted children or unadopted stepchildren, a personalized estate plan will help ensure that your property is distributed the way you wish.
In most estate planning situations, adopted children have an equal footing with biological children. Intestate succession laws at the state level control who inherits property in the absence of a will, and these laws treat adopted and biological children the same. For the purposes of wills and trusts that provide gifts or distributions, the rights of adopted and biological offspring are identical – even if the child was adopted after the will or trust was executed.
Stepchildren do not have inheritance rights to their parents’ new spouses unless they are legally adopted by them. If you have stepchildren and want to include them in your estate plans, it is important to amend your estate plan accordingly. You can consider adoption, of course, but it is not necessary to adopt stepchildren for the sole purpose of estate planning.
If you prefer to leave stepchildren out of your estate plans, no additional action is required, although it is usually recommended to amend your estate plan to state that wish.
Additionally, if no estate plan is done, or you have your estate plan leave everything you own to your spouse who is not the biological parent of your children, you run the risk of disinheriting your children. There have been many circumstances in which the surviving spouse inherits everything from their deceased spouse and then amends their own estate plan to leave everything to their biological children.
Establishing an estate plan will prevent any of the aforementioned events from happening.
Any time a family has a new addition – whether through marriage, birth, or adoption – it is important to update your estate plan. Should both parents become incapacitated or pass away, an appointed guardian can take surviving minor children into their home. Recalibrating plans with an estate planning attorney can help ensure every member of the family is factored in, no matter what lies ahead.
When it comes to blended families, it is essential to make sure your estate planning documents reflect your intentions. While nobody likes to consider the worst-case scenario, planning ahead can mitigate much of the stress and anxiety that comes with the passing of a beloved family member. Since no estate plan is alike, it is important for your personal wishes to be honored, and there is no better way to ensure that than crafting an estate plan that is tailored for your specific goals. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney, give us a call at (281) 885-8826 or schedule online today!