The families of today look a lot different than the families that were familiar to the people who created the states’ probate laws years ago. Probate laws have changed over time, but they still may not apply to your family in the ways that you might expect them to. Events like divorce, adoption, remarriage, stepchild adoption, and cohabitation all require consideration during the estate planning process. If they do not get addressed, it is possible that people who you wished to receive certain benefits or assets would not receive them. It is also possible that people who you do not wish to inherit specific benefits or assets may inherit them.
If you have adopted children, you love them as your own. It is likely, then, that you expect that the laws of probate would treat your adopted children the same as it would treat any biological children that you may have. Fortunately, this is the case in most situations, including intestate succession, where the deceased died without a will. When there is a will or a trust, it is also highly likely that adopted children will get treated in the same exact way as biological children, even in situations that provide gifts to get distributed to one or more classes of individuals, such as “grandchildren” or “children.”
If you marry someone who has children from a prior relationship, you may wonder whether it is necessary to adopt them if you love them and care for them as if they are your own. Adopting your stepchildren is a good idea, especially if you want them to have inheritance rights. Stepchildren who are not adopted do not have inheritance rights to the estates of their stepparents. You can also provide for stepchildren in your estate plan without adopting them, as long as you do it specifically. This is an important consideration in places where adoption by a stepparent severs the parent-child relationship with a child’s other parent and their entire family. If that relationship is severed, so are inheritance rights, so be sure that you give full consideration to how adopting or not adopting your stepchild will affect them.
When unmarried couples have children, it is important that they take steps to include their children and each other in their estate plans. If one of the parents dies, custody of the children does not always automatically pass to their other parent unless the proper plans are made in advance of their passing.
If you have questions about how to create an estate plan that will accomplish your wishes for everyone in your family, it is essential that you speak with a Kansas estate planning attorney. You can find the answers to all of your questions about divorce, remarriage, adoption, and more by talking with an estate planning attorney in Kansas. Arrange for an initial consultation with Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber today, by calling (316) 265-7802, or by contacting us through our website. We offer appointments Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and occasionally in the evenings or on weekends.