How to Include Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan in Florida

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    How to Include Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan in Florida

    How to Include Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan in Florida

    Parents of stepchildren in Florida must take extra care with their estate plans for the stepchild to receive their inheritance.

    Stepchildren who are not legally adopted do not automatically inherit part of their step-parent’s estate by law. You must plan for it in your estate plan.

    In this easy-to-understand guide, we’ll explain how and why you need to include your stepchildren in your estate plan in Florida. As estate planning lawyers, we regularly help people like and welcome you to call us today for a free consultation.

    Child Inheritance Laws in Florida

    In Florida, children have very strong inheritance rights (in the case that there is no last will or trust instructing how an estate is shared).

    However, what the law defines as a child may be different from what you define yourself. While blended families and stepchildren are very common to the 21st-century Floridian, they’re not so common to long-standing laws. Here’s how it works:

    Biological Children

    Biological children have an automatic right to their biological parents’ estate, unless adopted by other parents.

    Adopted Children

    Legally adopted children have an automatic right to their adopted parent’s estate. This is an equal share to the parent’s biological children.

    The adopted child will no longer have automatic rights to their biological parents’ estate.

    Step Children, Who Are Not Legally Adopted

    Stepchildren who are not formally adopted do not have any automatic intestate rights.

    So to leave assets, property and wealth to your stepchildren who are not legally adopted, you will need to include them in your estate plan. Do not use vague language – always state ‘stepchildren’.

    Special provisions in your will, trust or other estate-planning tools can ensure they are still protected.

    If you do not have a will, then your estate will be subject to Florida intestate laws, where non-adopted stepchildren are not included and would receive no share of the estate.

    Elective Share Complications for Blended Families

    Blended families with stepchildren can also bring further legal complications if a spouse or both spouses have children from previous relationships.

    Florida’s ‘elective share‘ law guarantees surviving spouses at least 30% interest in their decedent spouse’s estate – even if the will said otherwise.

    If the decent spouse had no will, the surviving spouse can receive 100% of the estate if there are no children or only children from that relationship. If either spouse has children from another relationship, the elective share is 50%.

    Due to the elective share law, blended families are at risk of disinheriting the stepchild.

    For example:

    • Bruce leaves his entire estate to his spouse, Wendy upon his death (making her the owner of his property and assets).
    • They both have adult children from previous relationships but have no children together.
    • Wendy dies years later without a will.
    • As she had no will, her assets (and the assets that were previously Bruce’s) passed to Wendy’s children by law.
    • As Wendy and Bruce never adopted their stepchildren, Bruce’s children have no right to Wendy’s estate (including the assets that were once Bruce’s).

    Even if Bruce had specifically stated that he wanted his property to go to his children, Wendy would still receive at least 30% of the wealth due to the elective share law. And therefore 30% of the estate would pass to Wendy’s children but not Bruce’s.

    These scenarios are sadly not rare and the happiest of families can make these mistakes. After all, the average person doesn’t know Florida’s estate planning law fine prints.

    These nasty surprises can be avoided long in advance through well-planned estates, specifically with the help of a reputable estate planning lawyer.

    How to Include Your Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan

    Thankfully, you can solve the complications of non-legally adopted stepchildren and inheritance through some well-thought-out estate planning:

    How to Include Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan in Florida

    Parents of stepchildren in Florida must take extra care with their estate plans for the stepchild to receive their inheritance.

    Stepchildren who are not legally adopted do not automatically inherit part of their step-parent’s estate by law. You must plan for it in your estate plan.

    In this easy-to-understand guide, we’ll explain how and why you need to include your stepchildren in your estate plan in Florida. As estate planning lawyers, we regularly help people like and welcome you to call us today for a free consultation.

    Child Inheritance Laws in Florida

    In Florida, children have very strong inheritance rights (in the case that there is no last will or trust instructing how an estate is shared).

    However, what the law defines as a child may be different from what you define yourself. While blended families and stepchildren are very common to the 21st-century Floridian, they’re not so common to long-standing laws. Here’s how it works:

    Biological Children

    Biological children have an automatic right to their biological parents’ estate, unless adopted by other parents.

    Adopted Children

    Legally adopted children have an automatic right to their adopted parent’s estate. This is an equal share to the parent’s biological children.

    The adopted child will no longer have automatic rights to their biological parents’ estate.

    Step Children, Who Are Not Legally Adopted

    Stepchildren who are not formally adopted do not have any automatic intestate rights.

    So to leave assets, property and wealth to your stepchildren who are not legally adopted, you will need to include them in your estate plan. Do not use vague language – always state ‘stepchildren’.

    Special provisions in your will, trust or other estate-planning tools can ensure they are still protected.

    If you do not have a will, then your estate will be subject to Florida intestate laws, where non-adopted stepchildren are not included and would receive no share of the estate.

    Elective Share Complications for Blended Families

    Blended families with stepchildren can also bring further legal complications if a spouse or both spouses have children from previous relationships.

    Florida’s ‘elective share‘ law guarantees surviving spouses at least 30% interest in their decedent spouse’s estate – even if the will said otherwise.

    If the decent spouse had no will, the surviving spouse can receive 100% of the estate if there are no children or only children from that relationship. If either spouse has children from another relationship, the elective share is 50%.

    Due to the elective share law, blended families are at risk of disinheriting the stepchild.

    For example:

    • Bruce leaves his entire estate to his spouse, Wendy upon his death (making her the owner of his property and assets).
    • They both have adult children from previous relationships but have no children together.
    • Wendy dies years later without a will.
    • As she had no will, her assets (and the assets that were previously Bruce’s) passed to Wendy’s children by law.
    • As Wendy and Bruce never adopted their stepchildren, Bruce’s children have no right to Wendy’s estate (including the assets that were once Bruce’s).

    Even if Bruce had specifically stated that he wanted his property to go to his children, Wendy would still receive at least 30% of the wealth due to the elective share law. And therefore 30% of the estate would pass to Wendy’s children but not Bruce’s.

    These scenarios are sadly not rare and the happiest of families can make these mistakes. After all, the average person doesn’t know Florida’s estate planning law fine prints.

    These nasty surprises can be avoided long in advance through well-planned estates, specifically with the help of a reputable estate planning lawyer.

    How to Include Your Stepchildren in Your Estate Plan

    Thankfully, you can solve the complications of non-legally adopted stepchildren and inheritance through some well-thought-out estate planning:

    • Update your will so that your wishes specifically mention the inheritance your stepchildren should receive.
    • Update trust or designation documents to include your stepchildren.
    • Ensure your estate planning documents specify your stepchildren as ‘stepchildren’ and not just ‘children’.
    • Update the named beneficiaries of insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k) plans and any other non-probate assets.
    • Consider appointing stepchildren as a power of attorney to make medical and financial decisions on your before.
    • Consider appointing stepchildren as personal representatives of your estate or trust.

    Read related: Why You Shouldn’t Use DIY Will Services

    Using a Trust for Your Stepchildren

    A trust can be a simple solution to sharing your estate with your biological and non-biological children. Including clear instructions here can ensure trust assets are distributed per your wishes, away from intestate law complications.

    Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Today

    If you’re in a blended family or have a stepchild and want to ensure they do or don’t get a share of your estate, please contact our Florida estate planning lawyers today.

    We can review your circumstances and utilize the optimal estate planning instruments to ensure your stepchild isn’t left out. We’ll also ensure all documents are valid and put plans in place that avoid family conflicts.

    Free Assessment

    Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning, experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you plan for the future today.

    Schedule a free assessment today to get started.

    • Update your will so that your wishes specifically mention the inheritance your stepchildren should receive.
    • Update trust or designation documents to include your stepchildren.
    • Ensure your estate planning documents specify your stepchildren as ‘stepchildren’ and not just ‘children’.
    • Update the named beneficiaries of insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k) plans and any other non-probate assets.
    • Consider appointing stepchildren as a power of attorney to make medical and financial decisions on your before.
    • Consider appointing stepchildren as personal representatives of your estate or trust.

    Read related: Why You Shouldn’t Use DIY Will Services

    Using a Trust for Your Stepchildren

    A trust can be a simple solution to sharing your estate with your biological and non-biological children. Including clear instructions here can ensure trust assets are distributed per your wishes, away from intestate law complications.

    Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Today

    If you’re in a blended family or have a stepchild and want to ensure they do or don’t get a share of your estate, please contact our Florida estate planning lawyers today.

    We can review your circumstances and utilize the optimal estate planning instruments to ensure your stepchild isn’t left out. We’ll also ensure all documents are valid and put plans in place that avoid family conflicts.

    Free Assessment

    Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning, experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you plan for the future today.

    Schedule a free assessment today to get started.

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