Perhaps more than ever before, more families have taken on a non-traditional idea of family. Many homes include children from past marriages, or adopted children who are not biologically tied to either parent. Regardless of DNA, family members are often held close to our hearts, and we may want to ensure that they are all protected under the law during estate planning. If you want to confirm that your estate will be distributed to your family members as you prefer, then it’s important to speak with a qualified estate planning attorney near you.
The Rights of Stepchildren
Despite being loved and accepted by their stepparents, stepchildren do not have any rights to your belongings if you were to pass away without including them in your estate plan documents. As a stepparent, you do not have to obtain parenting rights for them to inherit a portion of your estate, you would just have to list their names specifically as beneficiaries and what items or money you have designated them to receive in the future. When working with an attorney on your estate plan, be sure to communicate your wishes regarding stepchildren so they can advise you accordingly.
If you ask your attorney about whether it’s better to just adopt your stepchildren, they are likely to tell you that this is only a decision that you can make on your own, based on what is right for you and your family. Adoption will grant you parenting rights, to where your biological children and stepchildren will have equal rights in the sense of property, inheritance, and assets.
However, one key consideration is if you do adopt your stepchildren and the other parent is not involved in their life much, you would essentially be severing the ties to that side of their family. This may cause your stepchildren to become ineligible to receive inheritances down the line.
In some states, a stepparent may adopt a stepchild without terminating their rights and relation to the biological parent. But, it depends on where you live, the laws for your state, and the circumstances of the adoption. It may be best to get advice from an estate planning lawyer in Roseville, CA so you can ensure you are taking the right steps.
Adopting Non-Biological Children
Many people decide to adopt from an agency either in their community, within the United States, or out of country. It is also possible to adopt straight from the mother, after giving birth in the delivery room. The process can be long and can entail quite a bit of fees and expenses. But after all is said and done, the adoptive parents now get to experience the highs and lows that come along with parenting. After finalizing the process of adopting non-biological children, you would become their legal parent by law. So, if you were to pass away without having an estate plan, then they would have equal rights to a portion of your estate.
Thanks to Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning and adding your adopted or stepchildren to your plan.