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Planning the distribution of assets to stepchildren

An estate plan involves the use of legal instruments such as wills and trusts to distribute the assets of an estate. Many families are blended from more than one biological family, so estate planning often involves stepchildren. Readers in Oakland and Mccomb counties will want to learn more about planning an estate for stepchildren.

Probate law does not necessarily treat stepchildren the same as biological children. It is therefore essential for an estate plan to acknowledge step children in order to avoid hurt feelings.

Say you want your estate assets to be divided between biological children and a stepchild. An example in a recent news article illustrates why the specific language of estate planning documents is extremely important.

The estate plan in question sought to divide the assets evenly between the biological children and a step child, but one paragraph made a reference to "my children." The use of the general term "children" rather than their specific names in that single paragraph resulted in the exclusion of the stepson from the estate.

The family agreed that the stepson should be included, so they settled the estate with a family settlement agreement. While the estate was settled amicably in this case, it does illustrate the need for specificity in an estate plan. Many such plans today must also make provisions for step grandchildren.

The minimum requirements of an estate plan are to specify the recipients of the estate and when the distribution of assets should occur. Additional goals of an estate plan include minimizing the estate tax and avoiding probate.

Source: NWI Times, "ESTATE PLANNING: Planning for stepchildren," Christopher W. Yugo, Feb. 23, 2013

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