Family Law, Divorce, Separation
Stepchildren and divorce
Under the laws of intestacy, a stepchild will not automatically inherit from your estate unless they have been legally adopted by you. If you wish to pass on money or other assets to them, then you will need to make a will to do so.
Do you have stepchildren?
If you do not wish for anything to be passed onto a stepchild, then you still need to take care. If you do not leave a will, or if you do not make reasonable provision for stepchildren in any will you do make, then a stepchild may still be able to make a legal claim against your estate, even if they were not financially dependent upon you. Although not yet law, a recent Law Commission report on this area has recommended that this right to make a claim should be extended to include children treated by the deceased ‘as their own child’, even if they are not officially stepchildren.
Have your children become stepchildren following re-marriage?
Couples with children from previous relationships have a choice when making wills. They can make ‘mirror’ wills, which leave everything to each other on the first death and on the second death divide the estate between the children of the respective families.
This is the simplest approach but is based entirely on trust, as if you die first then your spouse is free to make a new will leaving everything to their own children only.
The watertight approach to ensuring that your children will inherit your estate, involves creating a ‘life interest’ trust in your will. This will leave your partner with the security of a right to the income from your assets and the right to live in your house for the remainder of their life, but the capital of your estate is always protected for your children, who will inherit when your partner dies. Such trusts can be set up in a flexible way so that the survivor (known as the ‘life tenant’) can have the ability to move house and have access to some of the capital if your executors agree.
The important thing is that couples take professional advice together, so that whatever provision they wish to make for their children and stepchildren works.