Plan ahead to ensure your stepchildren receive a fair inheritance.You’re right to be concerned about leaving money and property to your stepchildren. Unless you have adopted them, your stepchildren have no legal right to an inheritance from your estate—and no legal recourse if they are left out of your will. If you want to make sure your stepchildren will be provided for, there are a few actions you should take as soon as possible.

The Most Effective Ways to Leave Property to Your Stepchildren

While stepchildren are not considered “family" relations, you can still name them as an heir in your estate plan—just as you can leave assets to a friend or charity. Also, if you pass away while married to your stepchild’s parent, your spouse will have a right to inherit part of your estate and may share it with your stepchild. However, these methods are not guaranteed and may be challenged by blood relatives in court.

There are better ways to provide for a stepchild after your passing, including:

  • Your will. When leaving a gift to a stepchild, it’s best to be as clear and specific as possible—especially if you have both natural children and stepchildren. If you have different kinds of descendants, don’t refer to them as a group in your will (such as “children” or “issue”). Instead, list each heir individually, by name, and itemize the assets they should inherit.
  • Trusts. A trust is a separate entity from the rest of your estate and is overseen by a trustee of your choosing. By creating a trust that names your stepchild as a beneficiary, you can set up regular distributions that could last the rest of their life.
  • Payable-on-death designations. Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and other securities may have a payable-on-death stipulation instead of being added to your estate. If you name your stepchild as a beneficiary of the policy or account, the money in the account will go directly to them.
  • Adoption. New York has laws that protect children who are accidentally disinherited, but these laws don’t apply to stepchildren. Adopting your stepchildren gives them the same right to inherit as children, even if you die without a will.

The attorneys at Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group can help you find the most effective way to pass your property to your loved ones. Contact us today through our online form to have us explain your options.