Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Special Considerations for Stepchildren and Step-Grandchildren
The modern American family comes in all different shapes and sizes. Furthermore, the people you consider family are not always decided by blood. For some stepparents and step-grandparents, there is no difference in how they see their biological children and the children who entered into the family through marriage. They want all of their children or grandchildren to receive an equal share of their estate. Other stepparents and step-grandparents do not get along as well with stepfamily members, or they have concerns about how their stepfamily members would spend any inheritance funds that they received. If you are part of a blended family, it is critical that you reflect your wishes regarding stepchildren and step-grandchildren in your estate plans.
State Inheritance Laws Favor Biological Relationships
When an individual dies without a will or estate plan—known as dying intestate—his or her property is divided according to the state laws that address intestate succession. Intestate succession laws in Illinois specify that, in most cases, your intestate property will be distributed between your surviving spouse and your legal children. Therefore, unless you have legally adopted your stepchildren, they will not be intestate heirs when you die. This is true of step-grandchildren as well. Even if you have been very close to or lived with your stepchildren or step-grandchildren, they will not have any legal claim to an intestate inheritance from you. If you want to pass down property, funds, or specific family heirlooms to stepfamily members, you will need to use an estate planning tool such as a will or trust to do so.
Excluding Stepchildren From Your Will
There are many reasons that a person may wish to exclude certain family members from inheriting his or her property. If you die intestate, your current spouse will receive an inheritance, the amount of which will depend on whether you have any children or descendants of your own. When your spouse dies, the property that was once yours could be left to your spouse’s children—your stepchildren—either through your spouse’s estate plan or intestate succession. If you have reasons that you do not want your stepchildren to eventually inherit your property, you will need to formalize these wishes using an estate planning tool.
Another issue to consider is that the law does not take the sentimentality of property into account. Consider the following example: You have a sentimental item that you want your son to inherit but you do not express this in a will. When you pass away, half of your estate is given to your current spouse and half goes to your children. If your current spouse happens to receive the heirloom as part of his or her inheritance, he or she is under no legal obligation to follow your wishes and give that heirloom to your son. The issue could be easily put to rest in advance with a few basic estate planning tools.
Contact a Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer
Understanding what types of estate planning tools are best suited for your specific circumstances and desires can be extremely difficult. If you need help designing an estate plan that takes into account all of your wishes, contact an experienced DuPage County wills and trusts attorney at the Gierach Law Firm. Call our office today at 630-756-1160 to schedule an appointment.