Naperville Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Stepparents and Stepchildren
In many ways, the concept of estate planning is similar to that of healthy living. Most people are aware that both are good ideas, but it can be very difficult to even get started. Much like eating right and exercising, estate planning is one of those things that many people will do eventually. Unfortunately, some wait too long and never actually get around to it.
As an estate planning lawyer, I know that the process of creating a will or trust is not as challenging as many fear it will be. Doing so is also incredibly important for the long-term stability of your family. It is even more important if you have remarried and now have stepchildren, as your spouse’s children are not automatically considered related to you for the purposes of distributing your estate.
Understanding the Law
If you die without a will, the laws regarding intestacy will govern how your property is distributed. Such laws may vary from state to state, and in Illinois, they can be rather complex depending on your family situation. For example, if you are married but have no children, your spouse will receive all of your estate. If you have children but no surviving spouse, your children will receive everything. If you have both a spouse and children, your spouse will receive half of your estate, and your children will split the other half. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your parents inherit your estate, unless they are deceased, in which case your estate will go to your siblings.
It is imperative to understand, however, that these laws only refer to children for who you are the legal parent. A normal stepparent-stepchild relationship does not make you the child’s legal parent. Only a formal adoption can create the legal parent-child relationship, and in Illinois, a stepparent adoption can only occur if the child’s other parent allows the adoption to take place.
What Can You Do?
Assuming adoption is not a feasible option, you can control what your stepchildren will receive following your death through estate planning. You have the ability to name virtually any heirs you choose, as well as the right to limit the inheritance of certain individuals. For example, if you remarried and, over time, became very close with your stepchildren, you could name them as beneficiaries of your estate in your will or trust documents. If you so choose, they could receive the exact same consideration as any biological children you may have, even if you never legally adopted your stepchildren.
The same holds true for your biological children who have been adopted by their stepparent. If, for example, you had a child with a partner who later married someone else, and you allowed the new partner to adopt your child, you still have the right to name that child as a beneficiary in your estate plan.
Let Us Help
While the process of estate planning is often straightforward, making the relevant decisions can be difficult. To learn more about how your estate plan can be used to provide for your stepchildren, contact an experienced Naperville estate planning attorney. Schedule your confidential consultation with us today.
Illinois Probate Act of 1975
Illinois Adoption Act