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Why stepchildren may make an estate update necessary

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2024 | Wills |

Discussions about estate planning when starting a blended family often focus on protecting one’s children. Remarried parents often need to plan carefully to ensure that their children receive an appropriate portion of their estate when they die. New spouses may otherwise inherit assets that someone wants their children to receive.

However, there are other issues that people need to address when establishing a blended family. Providing for their stepchildren can be one of those concerns. Those who now have stepchildren in their family may need to create an estate plan to ensure their safety and comfort should anything happen to their parents.

Stepchildren do not have a right of inheritance

Estate planning is important because it gives someone control over their legacy. If someone dies without a will, state law determines who inherits from their estate. Spouses and children usually claim most or all of someone’s estate when they die without a will.

Under Texas state statutes, stepchildren technically do not have any right of inheritance in an intestate succession scenario. Only someone’s biological or legally adopted children have an automatic right of inheritance.

There are two ways to address this issue. One involves the relatively complex route of pursuing a stepparent adoption. Adopted stepchildren can inherit from someone’s estate without a will designating them as beneficiaries. Adoption may not even be an option if their other parent is alive and actively involved in their lives.

The other option entails specifically allocating assets for stepchildren to inherit when a stepparent dies. Sometimes, when a stepparent plays a role in a child’s life for most of their childhood, they may want to grant them an equivalent inheritance to any of their biological children. Other times, stepchildren may receive less but could still access crucial resources from someone’s estate.

Both wills and trusts can allow someone to bequeath property to their stepchildren after they die. The creation of a blended family establishes a new dynamic and also new legal needs. Making estate planning changes can be a smart move for someone who has recently become a stepparent. The protection of stepchildren requires careful consideration when creating or updating an estate plan.

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