Stepchildren are part of many families. It is a beautiful thing when a man or a woman chooses to marry someone who has children from a previous relationship and loves those children as if they were their own. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but children who are raised by a parent and a stepparent that work to build loving, supportive relationships within their home benefit tremendously from the support of both their parent and their stepparent.
Stepparents may wonder whether there is anything specific that they must do concerning estate planning to provide security and support to their stepchildren when they pass away. Stepparents who have legally adopted their stepchildren do not need to do anything specific for their stepchildren to inherit from them. Stepchildren who have been adopted by a stepparent inherit under the laws of intestate succession in the same manner as biological children inherit from a parent. When a stepparent who has adopted their stepchildren makes a will that provides for their “children,” their adopted stepchildren are included in that class of beneficiaries and will share in receiving whatever the stepparent left in the will to their “children.” Stepparents who have legally adopted their stepchildren therefore either provide for them upon their death via intestate succession or individually through the provisions they include in their estate plan. We encourage stepparents who have adopted stepchildren to create estate plans for the same reason we encourage all people to make estate plans – it is better to make a plan for how you would like your resources distributed at the end of your life than it is to let the state determine where those resources go.
Stepparents must also be aware that it is not necessary for a stepparent to legally adopt their stepchild for the stepchild to be able to inherit from them. Stepparent adoption is desirable in some situations, such as when one of a child’s biological parents has failed to support them or maintain a relationship with them. However, in many cases, children enjoy supportive, loving relationships with both biological parents and gain even more caring adults in their lives when one or both of their biological parents marry and bring stepparents into their lives. In these family situations, stepparents can include stepchildren in their estate plans without cutting off their stepchildren’s rights to inherit from either of their biological parents. In most states, stepchildren who are adopted by a stepparent are unable to inherit from the biological parent whose parental relationship to them was terminated by the stepparent adoption. Including stepchildren in estate planning without legally adopting them is, therefore often the best way to provide for them.
There are multiple ways that you can provide for your stepchildren in your estate plan, including a will, beneficiary designations, and trusts. To learn more about how to revise an existing estate plan to include stepchildren, or create an estate plan to benefit your stepchildren, schedule a consultation with the Weber Law Office, P.A., by calling (316) 265-7802. You can also connect with us online. Our Wichita office is open on weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.