Thursday, July 12, 2018
Mark Accettura, estate planning attorney and author of Blood & Money: Why Families Fight Over Inheritance and What to Do About It, says that stepparents and stepchildren are natural competitors to children. “It’s the number one source of conflict in my practice.”
Your first responsibility should be your spouse, especially if they are not financially independent and look to you for economic support. A surviving spouse does have the right to claim certain amounts of the late spouse’s assets, in the absence of a will or proper prenup depending on their state's laws on the matter.
At the death of the first spouse, distribute at least a little cash to all the adult children, equally. It’s not so much the amount as the signal that you cared. If the relationships are appropriate, try to treat children and stepchildren the same.
A persistent source of conflict is the division of personal property, says John Scroggin, an attorney with Scroggin & Co. in Atlanta. First-family heirlooms might be claimed by second-family children — in the worst case leading to lawsuits.
See Jane Bryant Quinn, Don't Split Heirs With Your Estate, AARP Bulletin, July/August 2018.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.