Unlike biological children who are natural heirs to an estate, step-children are not entitled to an automatic right to inherit from their step-parent’s estate if their step-parents were not to leave a Will behind.
The presence of such inheritance laws makes it necessary for parents of step-children to clearly specify in their Will how they should want their assets to get distributed.
How Step-Children Complicate Wills?
These days, it is quite common for people to have step-children owing to the many life circumstances that we are subjected to. But as it often happens, step-parents share a close relationship with their step-children. They consider them to be children of their own and as a result decide to include them as a beneficiary in their Wills.
If you harbour a similar wish to leave behind gifts for step-children in your Will, you should get yourself acquainted with how having step-children complicates the process of writing a Will.
If you do not leave behind a Will which clearly expresses your wishes, your step-children may not have a natural claim to your estate. By law, only biological children have an automatic right and what share of the estate they get depends on your marital status and the estate’s worth.
On the other hand, you may have a specific wish that you do not want your step-children to inherit from your estate. Perhaps you have your own biological children and it is they who you wish should benefit through your Will.
But this may not be so simple, because if you have remarried but pass away before your spouse does, you may want to make provisions for what happens then too. In this situation, your spouse becomes part owner of your estate and then it is up to them to decide who should inherit what.
Against your wishes, your spouse may decide to leave everything behind for his or her children and in the process, your children stand to gain nothing from their own biological parent’s legacy.
Having such concerns is completely understandable. Even if you have been given assurances, you may still want to ensure that there are no loose ends. After all, it is not uncommon for situations to change even while one is living, and so how can one be so certain about the possibilities after death?
If your spouse decides to remarry, their new husband or wife would be entitled to your estate too. Some people get intimidated by the complexities that arise and decide to not leave a Will behind. However, that only means more loss for your biological children. If your spouse inherits a part or the entirety of your estate under the rules of intestacy, his or her children will be next in line to be the beneficiaries to your estate.
How to Draft your Will when you have Step-Children?
In case you have step-children, you need to ascertain what their level of entitlement towards your estate should be. The law of the land entitles each person to testamentary freedom which means you have the liberty to choose who should be the beneficiaries to your estate. It may be your children, your step-children or neither of them.
Under such circumstances it is advisable to speak to a Wills specialist and give them an understanding of your wishes. The relationship which you share with each of your family members should be clear to the Will specialist. This will ensure that they keep your best interests in mind while drafting the Will so that everything happens exactly according to your wishes.
If you share good relations with your step-children and want them to inherit from your estate, you must clearly specify, for example, that you leave behind 20 percent of your estate to your step-child Joshua and 20 percent of the estate to your step-child Mary.
If you do not wish to leave behind anything for your step-children, you must provide the names of your chosen beneficiaries which may or may not include your children. To elaborate further on your wishes, you can leave behind a Letter of Wishes accompanying your Will. Writing this letter gives you the opportunity to justify your actions.
It is always advisable to have an open discussion regarding your wishes, especially with those you believe will be impacted by the announcement of your wishes. Listening to the opinions of others may reduce the chance of your Will being contested in the future.
In the event of your spouse outliving you, the question that often arises is how to leave behind a legacy for them? Generally, people want to ensure that their spouse is given what he or she rightfully deserves without putting the estate at stake.
Creating a trust in your Will enables you to cater to his or her specific needs, such as making arrangements for a home and an income for your spouse’s remaining life.
Get in touch with the team at Legacy Wills today to guarantee that your wishes are honoured even once you’re gone.