Sometimes disinheriting stepchildren is a good idea.
Having a blended family in the United States is pretty common.
Sometimes one party may have a child or children from a previous marriage or relationship before marrying the love of their life.
In many cases, both partners have been married before and have children from their previous relationships.
Although not all families have the step-parent and stepchild relationship of Cinderella, the new dynamics and expectations can be challenging for anyone to navigate.
According to a recent AOL article titled “How to Protect Assets From Stepchildren,” parents often feel the need to prioritize their own flesh and blood.
Unfortunately for Cinderella, these wishes were never communicated by her father or were destroyed by her stepmother.
Thankfully, modern estate planning provides greater protections for provisions regarding the distribution of assets.
States in America have their own intestate laws governing what will happen to assets after the asset owner dies.
Children by blood are usually considered heirs, while stepchildren are not.
Does this mean these stepchildren will be disinherited?
Suppose you die first, and your surviving spouse inherits your entire estate.
If your surviving spouse dies with no last will and testament or funded revocable living trust, then state intestate succession laws come into play.
The children of your surviving spouse, by birth or adoption, will inherit everything.
So, unless your surviving spouse adopted your flesh and blood children, then they are SOL (i.e., sadly out of luck).
How can this be prevented?
You must create an estate plan with provisions for your assets to eventually pass to your own children.
Depending on the terms of any antenuptial agreement you may have, you may provide first for your surviving spouse, then your own children.
In my 30 years of practicing estate planning law, I have found that life insurance is an excellent financial tool in this context.
Suppose you create an estate plan with a QTIP marital trust to provide for your surviving spouse.
Under this arrangement, your surviving spouse benefits from the trust income for life.
Your own children must wait until that stepparent dies to inherit the QTIP assets.
And, depending on the age and health of that stepparent, such a wait could take a while.
However, if your own children inherit a life insurance policy from you at the same time the QTIP is funded, then you will have taken care of everyone you love with everything you have.
We call that a win-win.
In addition, this approach does not depend on identifying and disinheriting your stepchildren by name in your estate plan.
That does very little toward encouraging warm and friendly blended family relationships.
By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can take care of your surviving spouse and avoid disinheriting your own children to the benefit of your stepchildren.
Reference: AOL (April 26, 2023) “How to Protect Assets From Stepchildren”