Getting a fair outcome

How Are Stepchildren Treated in Inheritance Cases?

With the growing number of marriages, remarriages and defacto relationships, family trees are starting to get more complicated. As parents work out how to support and provide for their children, it's important to make sure that any intentions to support the children are also noted and carried through in estate planning.

Wills and codicils

If a will is present, any intentions in that will are taken as given. If a child has previous been financially supported in by their stepparent in life, or was entitled to money that flowed through their estate of the biological parent to their stepparent in a previous estate, then the stepchild is expected to have inheritance rights.

If the intention is explicitly for the stepchildren to not inherit in the will then then will can be set up with a"blood lines" provision, where money can only flow to biologically related family members. Otherwise the will can be disputed, if stepchildren that could be expected to inherit, have not been provided for in the will.

If the intention is to provide an inheritance for the new stepchild, but the will writer does not wish to rewrite their will they can simply add a codicil detailing their intention for their estate to account for any new relationships.

Family trusts

For families with complicated or large estates, family trusts often sit beside the estate planning. The majority of assets can sit inside the trust, and these can continue to be accessed and used following a trustee's death. Trusts are also useful for managing capital gains tax issues, as assets do not need to change hands and be considered for capital tax.

Family trusts are useful for the inheritors on cashflow basis as the process of settling large estates under probate hearings can be lengthy, and this can be rough if new challenges or expenses arise in the meantime.

Stepchildren can be accounted for explicitly in the family trust, or allowed for by allowing flexibility with the other trustee to distribute funds to any dependents each year.

No documentation

In the absence of documentation the court will look at the length of relationship between the stepparent and the stepchildren, the degree of historical financial support for the stepchild and the current allowances in the will for biological children (including any restrictions around age of inheritance).

In order to make sure your estate proceeds are distributed in the way you intend, you should meet with a solicitor such as Walker Pender Group and get a custom will drawn up rather than relying on a disputable over the counter will writing kit.

About Me

Getting a fair outcome

When my friends make lawyer jokes, I just shake my head. Lawyers help our clients to get fair and equitable outcomes in and out of court and there is nothing more Australian than a fair go. With large and small clients coming in with new problems each day, I never quite know what the new day will bring, but that's the great thing about being a lawyer. Legal practise is always changing, always challenging and always rewarding. The one thing that stays the same no matter what the case details is that our focus is on getting the best outcome for our client.