by Mary Piasta
Sometimes folks come in with specific questions about their estate plans. One such question is whether their step-children will inherit? As with any question, the answer depends upon various things and the strategy driven by the desired objectives.
For starters, a stepchild is a child of a partner or spouse that you haven’t adopted. If you have adopted them, they are your children.
The answer then turns on what sort of estate documentation exists, if any. If there is a will and/or a trust, sometimes those documents answer the question.
Often there are no estate documents. In these cases, California law determines the issue. California leaves estates to heirs via intestate succession. This means that the ones closest to you will receive the property. To qualify as your child under this framework, the child must have been adopted legally. Thus, stepchildren who are not legally adopted will not inherit.
The way around this (aside from adoption) is to name step-children in specific documents to leave them a share of your estate. This way you can confirm they will inherit from you. So if any of this resonates with you, reach out to an attorney versed in reliable estate planning to assist you with the process.