Do Stepchildren Actually Have Legal Inheritance Rights?
If you or your spouse have children from a previous relationship, you join many other American families. Statistically, about one-half of American families are blended. As a result, the question regarding stepchildren and inheritance rights is a common one.
No doubt there are a few reasons that stepparents may wonder if non-blood relations are entitled to any share of an estate. In some cases, it may be that a stepfather or stepmother feels a tight bond and wants to leave behind money or real property. Of course, there are other times when the thought pattern is actually the opposite.
Just about everyone is familiar with the saying that “blood is thicker than water.” Apparently, the Texas legislature agrees. According to the Texas Estate Code, stepchildren do not figure into the law on intestate succession. So, does this mean that your stepchildren have no inheritance rights at all?
Estate Planning for Blended Families
For starters, it’s important to understand what it means to “die intestate.” Quite simply, if you die without executing a will, you “die intestate.” If you don’t leave directives concerning the passing of your estate, the law decides who should receive whatever real or personal property is left behind. Therefore, the laws of intestate succession are used as a guideline. They specify distribution according to descent.
In order to be considered a descendant, you must be blood-related. Therefore, if you die without a will, only your biological relatives would be entitled to a portion of your estate. For many, this would be an unintended consequence. After all, many stepparents have extraordinary relationships with their stepchildren.
So, what can be done? Consultation with an estate planning lawyer is critical for all families, particularly blended ones. More than likely, you want to make sure that you decide what you worked so hard to acquire.
When you meet with your attorney, you will be questioned about your family’s make-up. This will include providing names and relationships of those you wish to provide for in the event of your death. Whether or not you wish to include stepchildren in your will or not, you should mention them during your initial meeting.
Your will can be inclusive or exclusive of stepchildren. All things considered, the choice is yours. In some cases, it may be your intention to divide your estate equally between your biological children and stepchildren. Your attorney can ensure that this is specified within your Last Will and Testament.
Meanwhile, you may decide that you want to leave a predetermined dollar amount or percentage of your estate to your stepchild. Notwithstanding, it is also your right to exclude stepchildren from receiving anything. Your attorney will review your intentions and see that they are clearly represented in your estate planning documents.
In order to ensure your estate is passed on according to your wishes, it is important to seek legal advice. Whether you are part of a blended family or not, the Law Offices of Manfred Sternberg & Associates can assist you. Contact us to schedule an appointment.