For those who love their stepchildren as their own, it may come as a surprise that this bond isn’t enough when it comes to estate planning in Georgia. Because of the laws of inheritance, stepchildren do not automatically inherit when a stepparent dies.
Let’s say you’re creating your estate plan, and you stipulate that your estate should be divided equally among your children. The courts will typically only apply that to any biological children you may have, completely ignoring any claim from stepchildren. In these cases, it’s nice to think that the biological children would share, but it’s definitely not a foregone conclusion. Even if they did, there would be additional tax implications for all involved.
On the other hand, if you don’t have any biological children, your Atlanta will lawyer will tell you that your stepchildren will still not have any rights to your estate. Instead, it would pass to your spouse, your parents, your siblings, or even your cousins, rather than to the young people you helped to raise.
Should you wish for your stepchildren to receive an inheritance, you must make your wishes clearly, and legally, known. The most common way to do this would be to have a will lawyer in Atlanta draw up a will that outlines exactly what you want to happen with your estate. The document will need to be witnessed, and your attorney may advise you to take other precautions to make sure the will holds up when the time comes.
Another approach to estate planning for stepchildren would be to create a trust that names them as the beneficiaries. Trusts can be funded in a number of ways, such as with savings or assets; or they can be funded through life insurance. Various accounts, such as bank accounts, insurance policies, or IRAs can also be left specifically to stepchildren as long as the stepchildren are named as beneficiaries.
Adopted children do not face the same difficulties as stepchildren, as they are treated just like biological children according to the laws of succession. Children born outside of marriage may have to prove that they are descendents of the person who has passed away if there is no mention of them in a will.
Finally, this information should be kept in mind when your biological children are someone else’s stepchildren. Should you get remarried and then pass away, your estate goes directly to your spouse, not your children. When he or she passes, everything goes to his or her biological children. If you haven’t worked with a will lawyer in Atlanta to prepare for this, your children’s inheritance would legally go to their stepsiblings.
Blended families are common, but the laws of succession are often misunderstood. If you are a stepparent or your children have a stepparent, it is a good idea to talk to an Atlanta will lawyer to make sure everyone’s interests are considered.
It’s always a great feeling when a new client meets with a wills and trusts attorney in Marietta to get started on his or her estate planning. Every day, people in Marietta recognize the importance of putting a plan into place to prepare for their own futures as well as those of their heirs. Wills and trusts are two very important tools that the client and lawyer can create to protect that future. As important as that initial meeting is, however, there is still a need to follow up regularly to keep your wills and trusts updated and reflective of your current situation.
There are some times when it is obvious that your wills and trusts should be updated, but there are other times that are easier to overlook.
Major Life Changes
When there is a major change in your life, it’s time to call your Marietta wills and trusts lawyer. These types of changes, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child may dramatically affect who you want to name as beneficiaries.
Health situations are also another big indicator that it’s time to update your wills and trusts. Medical care can be incredibly expensive, and you may need to rearrange your plans to accommodate the costs. If dealing with a terminal illness or potentially life-threatening treatment, it also makes sense to ensure that your plans reflect your wishes.
Many Purchases Should Trigger Updates
Wills and trusts lawyers are able to help clients lay out a plan based on what the client has at the time. When your situation changes through major purchases (or sales) of real estate or other valuable assets, you should update your estate plan to reflect those changes. You want to ensure that the asset is included in your will or protected by your trust.
Purchases of, or changes in insurance policies, will likely also lead to a call to your Marietta attorney. These purchases will affect what you have to leave behind and will need to be reflected in your estate plan.
While you may not need to make changes with your Marietta wills and trusts attorney every year, it’s still a good idea to do an annual review of all your estate planning materials. In addition to refreshing yourself on what is there, your lawyer will also be able to advise you on any laws that have recently changed that might affect decisions you’d previously made. Just reading over the documents may be enough to notice a change that needs to be made. Not only does this give you an opportunity to make sure your plans still fit your needs, but by keeping them up-to-date, you are strengthening your will against being invalidated later. After all, if you’ve worked with an attorney to keep the wills and trusts fresh and in accordance with the most recent life changes, they are likely to reflect your true intentions.