The divorce rate in the U.S. ranges between 40% and 50%. And the majority of divorced men and women will remarry one or more times. This results in a vast number of blended families. That means there’s a good chance that you and your spouse have children from a former marriage — estimates say that as many as 33% of weddings today in the U.S. create blended families. How does this impact your estate plan?

The relationships between stepparents and stepchildren run the gamut. You may have little to no contact with your spouse’s children or you may have developed and maintained a close, bonded relationship that emulates that of a biological union. Regardless of your personal situation, U.S. inheritance laws generally treat all stepchildren the same: in the absence of a Will and/or an estate plan that makes specific provisions for these children, your stepchildren have no claim on your personal estate.

Some states treat inheritance by stepchildren differently, including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio. California may treat your child as a legal child beneficiary if they can demonstrate a close relationship and an attempt at adoption. The other states give stepchildren inheritance rights if their stepparent left no living biological relatives when they died.

The most effective and predictable method to ensure that your wishes are carried out with respect to your stepchildren is to draft a Will with the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney. Your lawyer can explain how your state’s laws apply to your blended family and draft a plan that addresses your wishes. If you need expert advice in this area, contact Grissom Law, LLC at 678-781-9230.

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