Hello, my name is Robin and I own a medium sized business which is based in a suburb of Perth, Australia. Many business owners do not understand the importance of commercial law on their operations. I know that I certainly didn't when I set out. At first, this wasn't an issue but as my business grew, I realised that if I didn't teach myself about the legal rules in place and seek expert help, I would find myself in serious trouble. I got in touch with a great law firm who helped me to understand exactly what I needed to know. I decided to start this blog to help other business owners.
While you may treat your stepchildren the same way as your natural children, the law may not. While you might assume that your stepchildren and children will share your estate when you die, this isn't always the case.
If you want all your children to have equal shares, you may need to set out your wishes in your will. Do you need to name your stepchildren as beneficiaries, and what happens if you don't?
The Rights of Adopted Stepchildren
If you have legally adopted your stepchildren, then they have the same rights as your children. When you die, all your children are treated equally when your estate is divided up.
You don't need to name adopted stepchildren in your will separately unless you want your estate to be divided in a specific way. For example, you may need to individually name any of your children — whether they are adopted or not — if you want to make special bequests to some but not to others.
The Rights of Non-Adopted Stepchildren
If you haven't adopted your stepchildren, they aren't likely to have any automatic estate claim rights. If you die before you've written a will, then your stepchildren aren't entitled to a share of your estate. Everything goes to your natural children if you don't have a living spouse or partner to inherit the estate.
Even if you make a will that specifies what should go to your children generally, don't assume that this includes your stepchildren. You may see them as your children, but the law makes a distinction between them and your biological children.
If you want your stepchildren to benefit from your estate, you need to make formal provision for them in your will. For example, you may need to name your stepchildren, along with your children, as the primary beneficiaries when you die. You must outline that you wish them to have a share of your estate, whether you want them to share your money equally with your natural children or not.
If you have stepchildren and want them to benefit from your estate, then make a will or amend your current one to include them. Stepchildren can sometimes challenge a step-parent's will if they weren't included and feel they should have been. However, this can be a complicated process that is likely to be distressing for all your children.
To find out what you need to do, contact a lawyer who specialises in wills and estates.