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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Including Your Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan

Will my stepchildren receive a portion of my assets if I die without a will?

There are over 1,300,000 households with stepchildren in the United States, according to Census Bureau data. Stepfamilies are a growing percentage of the American population, and the bond between a stepparent and stepchild can be quite strong. Most stepparents will want to ensure their stepchildren are protected after their death, but may not be aware that under Florida law, stepchildren are not automatically protected. Our Tampa estate planning lawyers explore some important estate planning considerations for stepparents below.

Florida Law and Stepchildren

If you die without a will or trust in place, Florida law will govern the distribution of your assets. Florida’s probate laws do not treat stepchildren as your legal heirs. As such, if a stepparent dies intestate (without a will), the stepchild does not have an automatic inheritance right. This also means that your natural children, who are likely stepchildren to your spouse, could be excluded should your spouse live longer.

Exceptions to this general rule do exist. If you legally adopt your stepchildren, then Florida law will treat adopted stepchildren as your lawful heirs. In Florida, a child for inheritance purposes is a natural child or one who is legally adopted. However, adopting a stepchild is not always easy. If the other parent is an active and involved part of the child’s life, it may prove impossible for you to adopt your stepchild.

Protecting Your Stepchild With a Will

To ensure your stepchild is protected in the event of your death, you will want to specifically include your stepchild in your will. Rather than a vague provision that leaves a percentage of your assets to your children, you will want to clearly state that you leave a set percentage to your children and legal stepchildren. You may wish instead to list your children by name so there is no chance of ambiguity.

A trust can similarly be set up to go to your biological and stepchildren. No matter what estate planning tools you use, you will want to make sure your estate plan does not unintentionally leave out your stepchildren. Consult with our Florida estate planning attorneys today for more assistance with crafting your thorough estate plan today.


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