Planning for Step Children

Estate Planning Leawood – Have questions about your step-children?

Blended families or those that have adopted children face a unique set of concerns for their estate plans. If your family’s makeup includes adopted or step children, it’s important to understand your estate planning options.

Adopted vs. Biological Children

In the eyes of the law, adopted children are viewed as having equal rights as biological children – in most situations for estate planning purposes. In addition, adopted children generally are treated identically to biological children for purposes of wills or trusts that provide for gifts or distributions to a class of persons, such as “children,” “grandchildren” or “lineal descendants” — even if the child was adopted after the will or trust was executed.

Stepchildren Have No Inheritance Rights

Stepchildren generally don’t have any inheritance rights with respect to their parents’ new spouses unless the spouse legally adopts them. If you have stepchildren and want them to share in your estate, you should either adopt them or amend your estate plan to provide for them expressly.

Of course, estate planning isn’t the only reason to adopt stepchildren. Adoption also gives you all of the legal rights of a parent during your life.

Before you adopt stepchildren, however, you and your spouse should consider the potential effect on their ability to inherit from (or through) their other biological parent’s relatives. In most states, when a child is adopted by a stepparent, the adoption decree severs the parent-child relationship with the other biological parent and his or her family. That means the child can’t inherit from that biological parent’s branch of the family — and vice versa — through intestate succession.

Spell out your wishes

If you have children who are adopted or stepchildren whom you haven’t legally adopted, or you’re unmarried but in a long-term relationship and your partner has biological or adopted children, clearly address your intentions in your will or living trust. Your estate planning advisor can help you understand your options.

Estate Planning Kansas City is an estate planning attorney in Overland Park providing wills and trusts to those in Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Shawnee and now serving Parkville, Riverside and North Kansas City from our Briarcliff Office. Each situation is different and this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be placed solely upon the base of this post.