Regardless of your age, you may experience a mix of emotions if your parent remarries. You become a part of a blended family and begin some sort of relationship with a stepparent and perhaps even stepsiblings. Even if these relationships are at times positive, the complexity of these relationships can come to the forefront when you lose a loved one.
In a past blog post, we discussed how probate can often become more complex when blended families are involved. Facing probate administration after losing a loved one can be stressful. Here are some things that children in blended families must be aware of as they manage this process.
Your biological parent
Probate may become a complicated process if your biological parent’s estate is probated.
What if your biological parents died with a will? This would allow your biological parent to leave specific personal assets to you and may allow for a larger percentage of their assets to go to you than the Probate Code provides.
If there is a Will, your biological parent could disinherit you, leave a small percentage to you or leave most assets to their new spouse. Your biological parent may have had a verbal agreement with the new spouse to assure that the real property be left to you on his/her death and may have conveyed this information to you. Or there may have been a verbal agreement that the spouse include you in the spouse’s will at the same percentage as his/her biological children. At the end of the day, when your stepparent dies, you may find that it is a very different distribution than what your biological parent intended or what your biological parent had hoped to achieve. As is often the case, your stepparent (the surviving spouse) may have decided to change his or her Will and not include you, despite having inherited a large portion of separate assets from your biological parent. This is a very sad and unsatisfying situation.
These are just some of the obstacles to inheriting assets from a biological parent.
Even if you have a close relationship with your stepparent, stepchildren generally do not inherit if a stepparent passes away without a will providing for a distribution to them, though there are some exceptions under California law depending on your relationship.
In a blended family, both the passing of a parent and a stepparent can become a complicated matter. To prepare yourself, you must become aware of these issues and discuss them ahead of time with your biological parent and/or stepparent.
Losing a loved one is never easy. On top of dealing with a loss, blended families often involve complex relationships – with complex emotions tied to them. It is common for these relationships and emotions to become even more complex in the event of anticipating a probate proceeding after the death of a loved one. As a child in a blended family, you should be prepared for the potential of disappointments and disputes with:
- Biological children your parent and stepparent had together
- Children your stepparent had before the second marriage that blended the family
These reasons above are why it is so important to discuss these matters long before probate begins. Conversations about a loved one’s estate plan are not always easy, but they are critical to avoid these stressful emotions and confusing processes.