Marrying a new spouse can mean bringing in children of the new spouse from a previous marriage. In time, stepparents may grow close to their stepchildren and desire to leave them an inheritance. However, stepparents may run into problems if they do not make out wills to govern their estates.
The problem with stepchildren inheriting from stepparents lies in intestate laws. If a person dies without a will, they die intestate, meaning they die without testifying their wishes for their estate. If so, the state will determine what will happen to the assets of the deceased person.
Stepchildren and inheritance laws
If a person dies without a will, the state shall distribute the assets of the deceased according to various formulas. For example, in a scenario where a person dies and leaves behind a spouse and only children by that spouse, having sired no heirs by another person, the spouse receives the full estate.
Smart Asset explains that while biological children stand to inherit from a parent after the death of that parent, stepchildren do not possess automatic inheritance rights in Colorado. However, adopted children do have the same rights as biological children, so adopting a stepchild can grant the stepchild a place in a line of intestate succession.
Wills and trusts
People can still provide for stepchildren without adopting them by naming them as heirs in a last will and testament. However, as FindLaw explains, people may challenge a will for various reasons. They may argue the person who composed the will did so under undue influence or they might say the will did not conform to state law. So naming stepchildren in a will does not guarantee that they will receive an inheritance.
To avoid the complications of a will contest, stepparents may provide benefits to stepchildren in other ways. They may name a stepchild as a beneficiary in a life insurance policy, a pay-on-death bank account, or a transfer-on-death real estate provision. Stepparents can also create trusts to transfer money or property to stepchildren when they reach a certain age.