The wicked stepmother, the woman who is hostile to her stepchildren, is a perennial trope. She appears constantly in legends and folklore around the world and is the villain of many a fairy tale. But what if in the real world, the selfish source of drama is your stepfather?
Times are changing; there are more and more female millionaires and as a result, more and more trophy dads.[i] If even a part of him is in it for the money, this could spell disaster, drama, and make for a difficult probate litigation once the female breadwinner passes.
Even if your stepfather isn’t a metaphorical gold-digger, it’s important to understand the complexities that may be at play in the case of a blended family inheritance. The number of complex, blended families is growing and with that, so are the number of unequal bequests. Parents with stepchildren are more likely to leave someone out of their will than those in nuclear families.[ii]
Across the spectrum — will contests, trust contests, life-estate challenges, probate objections, elder financial abuse, deed revocations or joint-tenancy quarrels — the interests and expectations of stepparents and stepchildren are often at odds. Inevitably, some estates managed by a widowed stepfather with stepchildren heirs will end up as a battle ground for hard-fought litigation over inheritance rights. Likely, the more heavily lopsided the estate distribution, the more likely there will be an inheritance battle.
A stepchild does not always have the inheritance rights of a biological or adopted child. If a stepparent wants to bequest cash, property or other bequests in a will (preferably an estate plan), she or he must specifically include the stepchild in their will (preferably an estate plan). Language in a will leaving property to “my children” is considered by the courts to include only biological and adopted children.[iii]
Another factor to be on the look-out for are short-term marriages. Wills, estate plans, transfers of property, and trusts that are hastily drawn up, with beneficiaries changed during a spouse’s last days, often end in estate litigation. While the decedent’s marriage may have been cut short by his death, his long-term estate plan may have been short-circuited by undue influence in the period before his passing.[iv] This is just one of the many factors that can be disputed after a wealthy spouse and parent passes away.
Let the experts at Velasco Law Group help you navigate the complexities of wills, trusts, estate planning and general asset protection. Whether you’re planning ahead in an effort to avoid an inheritance battle, or already find yourself in the middle of a dispute, our lawyers can help. The good news with litigation is that most cases are settled.[v] Once the lawyers have had time to exchange information and go through the discovery process, both lawyers will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case with their clients. It may be appropriate at that point for one side to present the other with a settlement offer, which is one way to end the litigation without the time and expense of trial. That is a decision made entirely by the client and the attorneys at Velasco Law Group.
Litigation can be a nasty and expensive undertaking. Family drama is often quick to arise during conflict. The lawyers at Velasco Law Group can help avoid family conflict, or resolve it in cases where it’s already begun. Our experienced attorneys will simplify the process and provide you with top notch representation. Make an appointment HERE