Laura Brereton, of the Harrison Drury home and family team, discusses the precautions families with stepchildren should take to adequately provide for them in the future.
In recent years, family dynamics have evolved from the traditional model, with an increasing number of blended families with stepchildren. However, have you considered how your death could affect your family if your will is not up-to-date?
If you die without leaving a valid will then the intestacy rules come into effect and your estate must be divided in a specific way, in order of strict priority. Only certain categories of relatives can inherit under the rules and the division of an estate on an intestacy can be far from your wishes.
Problems arise because the list of those who can benefit excludes stepchildren. In modern society, where the number of stepchildren is on the rise, this can cause issues with inheritance and could lead to costly litigation following death.
Make a will
The most common and simple solution to ensure that your wishes are followed, is to write a legally valid will, to clearly specify your intentions. However, writing your own will is risky and it is therefore advisable to seek professional assistance. Simply including ‘my children’ in your will would still exclude any stepchildren, so you must specify them explicitly in your will, to ensure they are beneficiaries.
While it is possible to correct the situation following death, if all beneficiaries agree, this leads to uncertainty and can cause disputes amongst family members. The position also becomes a lot more complicated if there are young children involved, or if any beneficiaries lack mental capacity to deal with their own finances.
Aside from more personal considerations, you may also need to take advice to ensure that you maximise the tax reliefs that are available to you.
Harrison Drury can provide guidance regarding estate planning and protecting your wealth for future generations. For more information, please contact Laura Brereton on 01772 258321.