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Estate Planning with Step-Children

Including Stepchildren In Your Estate Plan

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Without a will or a living trust, then the state of your domicile will decide under the  intestate statute how to distribute your estate.   Under the intestate statute, a stepchild will not inherit from your estate.  It is crucial that you make provisions in your estate planning documents for any stepchild if you wish to pass money or other assets to them, and if so, the most effective way is to have a written document, executed properly, such as a will or living trust.  In fact, in a revocable living trust, you have the option of expanding the definition of lineal descendants from biological and adopted children to also include stepchildren.  Failure to expand the definition in your documents to redefine “lineal descendants” or “children” reflects an intent to have it interpreted to mean only biological and adopted.  Finally, carefully review the language used for distributions of personal property, real estate, and the remainder of your estate.  Without having your wishes clearly in writing, with your estate organized and updated, then you are opening yourself up to a potential where the courts will infer your intent and the courts will be the final decision maker on where your estate will end up. 

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