How to Deal With Stepchildren in Your Will

How to Deal With Stepchildren in Your Will

You can leave behind assets to stepchildren just as you would anyone else, by naming the assets you want them to receive in your will.  However, stepchildren do not have any legal right to an inheritance unless you legally adopt them. Therefore, if you do not wish to leave any assets to your stepchildren, you do not have to expressly disinherit them. Nevertheless, sometimes it is wise to recognize step-children in your will even if you do not wish to leave them anything.  To make that decision, be sure to consult a Florida Board Certified estate planning lawyer.

Be precise in your language

Whether or not you are leaving anything to your stepchildren in your will, it’s important to be precise in the language you use in the document. Never use terms like “heirs,” “children” or “descendants” to refer to them — this language is vague, and it could be difficult to determine who exactly you mean.

The best strategy is to always refer to your children and stepchildren by name. If you wish to leave a particular asset (such as real property) to your biological children, but not your stepchildren, you should not state “I leave my lake house to my children.” It would be better to say: “I leave my lake house to John, Jill and Jack Smith.” This will ensure the exact people you intended to inherit that piece of property are the ones who get it.  You could also define the term “children” and the term “stepchildren” in your will before you use those terms in making gifts.

Keep in mind that if you leave your estate to your spouse, your stepchildren could still receive some of your estate through your spouse (their parent) if you pass away first. This is avoidable, but it will take some good planning.

For more information on setting up an estate plan that meets your needs and wishes, consult a trusted Florida estate planning attorney with BaumannKangas Estate Law.