Making a Will with stepchildren in England and Wales can be confusing as they aren’t seen as your heirs.
It is quite common now for there to be stepchildren in a relationship. It could be that you have brought your stepchildren up as if they were your own, but when it comes to inherence laws, they are not treated equally.
The rules of intestacy only apply to your biological or adopted children; your stepchildren are excluded. If you die without a Will in place, stepchildren are not entitled by law to inherit any of your estate. If you wish to leave any of your belongings to your stepchildren, you must specify this in your Will.
Another area that can cause a tricky situation is if you marry after having children in a previous relationship. If you die before your current partner, your estate could be passed along to their children and not your own.
How to make a will with Stepchildren in mind
The first step when writing a will with stepchildren is to ascertain what portion (if any) of your estate you would like them to inherit. In England and Wales you have testamentary freedom, which means you have the ability to split your estate any way you wish.
When drafting a Will, it is important to specify how you are related to your beneficiaries. If you wish to include your stepchildren, you need to be specific. For example – I want to leave 15% of my estate to my stepchild *NAME*
If you decide not to leave anything to your stepchildren, we recommend that you write a letter of wishes explaining why you have divided your estate in the way you have chosen.
What happens to your estate if you pass away before your partner
This area can cause a lot of confusion as although your stepchildren do not have the right to inherit from you, they do from your partner (their parent).
If you die without a Will, the law states that most of your estate will pass to your partner. Your children will only receive a small portion of your estate (if any). Our blog of What is intestacy explains this.
After your partner passes away, your children will have no legal right to your share of the estate passed onto them.
For example, you and your partner have a child each from a previous relationship and you get married. You decide together that when you pass away, your partner will inherit your estate and then they should then split the estate between the two children when they die. There is no legal way you can guarantee this happens, your surviving partner has the possibility to leave your child with nothing.
A good option to legally guarantee your child will receive the inheritance you want them to have is to create a Trust in your Will. You can find out more about Trusts here.
Depending on the type of Trust you could specify your partner is provided with an income and a place to live while they are alive but then the estate can be passed on to your children afterwards.
How to ensure you will is written as per your wishes
Trying to create a Will yourself, especially when the situation is not straight forward is unadvisable. If you make a mistake in your Will it could be very costly in the future and your wishes may not be upheld.
At Sovereign Planning, we take you through your Will step by step and give guidance through the whole process. When speaking to your Will Writer, you can explain your situation, and they can talk you through the best options. We can give advice, help put in place trusts, and write your Will to ensure your estate is distributed the way you want to protect your family’s future. Looking for professional will writers near you, put your trust in us. Check us out on Trustpilot.