It is sometimes assumed that parents who are going through the estate planning process will divide their property equally amongst their children. However, this is not always the case, particularly when stepchildren are involved. A 2015 study circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that parents with stepchildren may be less likely to distribute property equally amongst all the than parents who do not have stepchildren.
The study found that in 2010, out of the parents over age 50 that reported having wills, 35 percent divided their estates unequally among their children. This is a significant increase from 1995, when the percentage was only 16 percent. Stepparents were 30 percent more likely to plan unequal bequests than those with just genetic children.
Some experts claim that the fault lies with the stepmothers and that many estate disputes involve disagreements between stepmothers and stepchildren. However, experts also say there are ways for blended families to avoid these potential issues. For example, families should make sure to update their estate plans and wills regularly. It is suggested that people should update their wills every 10 years, and every five years after they turn 60. Additionally, blended families in particular, should discuss their estate plans with all adult children so that everyone knows what your wishes are.
Lastly, experts suggest meeting with an attorney before your second marriage, especially if you are the higher-earning spouse. You may even consider signing a prenuptial agreement. An estate planning attorney can discuss these issues with you, help separate your pre-marital and marital assets, and help prepare for the second marriage.
Source: TheStreet, “My Stepmother Stole My Inheritance,” Brian O’Connell, Feb. 8, 2018