How To Account For Step-Children In Blended Families

Blended families, families where one or both spouses have children from prior relationships, are extremely common. The result is that, when it comes to estate planning where stepchildren are involved, one needs to take into account that the law does not consider step-children as related to the step-parents, so if you are planning your estate, and there are stepchildren in the picture, contacting a Miami estate attorney to assist you is advisable so that you can make sure your wishes are granted when it comes to leaving those stepchildren an inheritance.

Stepchildren are not included as a relative who is entitled to inherit under Florida intestacy laws. This means that, unless a stepchild is specifically left a gift under an estate plan, they are entitled to nothing. Florida law does not view stepchildren in the same ways as it does a biological child, meaning that your stepchildren could end up with nothing if you die without a proper estate plan. Stepchildren would not be entitled to an inheritance under Florida intestacy laws, even if the decedent did not have any biological or adopted children.

This does not imply that a stepchild is not entitled to anything under any circumstances. With a properly executed estate plan, you can leave property to your stepchildren in a will or set up a trust for them. As long as the will is otherwise valid, there is nothing stopping inheritance by a stepchild this way.

There is one huge difference in how the law views a stepchild that has been legally adopted by a stepparent that must be borne in mind also. If a child is legally adopted, they are considered to be the offspring of the decedent in the same way that the decedent’s biological children are. This would mean that the stepchildren would have the same inheritance rights as the decedent’s biological children under Florida law.

An unintended consequence of this law would be a situation where a parent dies and leaves all of their property to their spouse, who is their children’s step parent, and when the step-parent dies, the first-to-die parent’s children would not get anything because they are not biological children of the second-to-die step-parent.

A Miami estate attorney should be consulted whenever an estate plan is being developed, and this is especially true when stepchildren are involved. Because stepchildren would not automatically inherit property from a stepparent, great care needs to be used when developing an estate plan for a few reasons. One is that any ambiguities that exist in the will when it comes to children inheriting could be construed against stepchildren. For example, if a testator puts in their will “I leave $100,000 to each of my children”, the court would not consider a step-child to be one of the children, even if that was the testator’s intent. Another potential issue would be if the will were to be challenged. If the will is overturned in such as case, chances are a stepchild would inherit nothing.

Through hiring a Miami estate attorney, you can be sure that you have a will that expresses your desires when it comes to leaving property to your stepchildren, without ambiguity and with less of a chance of the will being overturned. To hire a Miami estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (786) 522-1411.