In today’s world, the definition of “family” is broader than ever. Blended families are extremely common, and for spouses who helped to raise their stepchildren from a very young age, the bond between stepparent and child may be as strong a biological parent–child relationship. In these cases, it is very important to create an Anaheim estate plan that leaves clear instructions on your wishes for the executor or trustee of your estate. The following are five considerations to take into account when setting up your plan:
- If you do not specifically leave property to your stepchild under your will or trust, the child will not automatically be considered your beneficiary or heir in the same manner that your biological children will.
- Without these provisions in a will or trust in California, the stepchild may still have some inheritance rights under certain limited circumstances.
- In order to potentially have any of these rights, the relationship must have began at a very young age and continued throughout childhood and beyond, and there must be clear and convincing evidence that if there had not been some legal impediment blocking the step-parent’s ability to adopt the stepchild, the stepparent would have done so. For example, if the biological parent of the child blocks the adoption, the stepchild has rights. However, that consideration will only apply if the child is under age 18.
- In very limited circumstances, a stepchild may be able to inherit under a theory of “equitable adoption.” There must have been an adoption agreement between the stepparent and the child, and both parties had faithfully observed the agreement.
- If there are provisions within the will or trust that give your assets to a stepchild, however, those provisions cannot be challenged based solely on the fact that the child is not a biological child.
Clearly, it is essential that you create a thorough Anaheim estate plan if you want to be sure that your stepchildren receive your property after you pass away. To learn more about this and other estate planning issues, sign up for our free newsletter. In each issue, we strive to address all of the current topics facing families as they plan their estates.