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2 Major Estate Planning Issues for Step Families

2 Major Estate Planning Issues for Step Families

By: Solid Serenity Legal Solutions

Today’s families have become wider and more diverse than they once were. Families can include biological children, adopted children, fostered children, stepchildren, and friends we love like family.

But, sadly, the laws of inheritance have not changed to keep up with the changing times. The wider and more inclusive your family is, the more you need a solid estate plan. Today we will discuss blended families- where a couple with children from a previous relationship choose to marry or become life partners.

Here are 2 major estate planning issues for step families.

(1) Custody and Gifts to Minors

When 2 people come into a relationship with children from previous relationships, the law can be confusing. When one biological parent dies, the other biological parent will get custody of the minor children. It doesn’t matter what the stepparent’s relationship is like with the child.

If there is a biological parent who isn’t available or in the picture, the stepparent should consider adopting the minor children. Or, there should be estate planning documents in place nominating the stepparent as their spouse’s choice for Guardian.

A simple nomination of Guardian will not negate the other biological parent’s rights, but it will allow the stepparent a greater chance of getting guardianship in Court.

Additionally, without proper planning, while the children are under the age of 18, control of any assets left to the children will pass to the person who is their Guardian. If that person is the other biological parent, you may need to put a proper plan in place to protect your children’s inheritance and their relationship with their stepparent.

(2) Step Family Inheritance

Over time, stepchildren often become close to their stepparents. The children and the stepparent will likely have a bond and consider each other family. But, the law doesn’t instantly recognize that relationship.

No matter how long the stepchild has been in the stepparent’s life or how close they are, the law does not allow a stepchild or stepparent to inherit from the other without a specific estate plan in place that makes those wishes clear.

So, if Johnny raised David like his own child, but never adopts David, David will not inherit from Johnny under the current Oklahoma law. Johnny can only leave David an inheritance if he makes a proper plan to give David some of his assets at his death. This scenario works both ways.

Reach out today to get your questions answered about step family estate planning. Book online here.

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