When we talk about blended families, we mean a husband or wife who has children from a previous marriage or relationship. Ohio law does not allow a step-child to inherit from a step-parent. Only biological or adopted children may inherit from a parent. If you want to make sure that your child or step-child will receive your assets after you die, you will need an estate plan now.
The simplest way to play for step-children is to prepare and sign a will. In a will, you can specifically designate your children to include step children. Without a will, your assets will be distributed by rules we call “intestate succession.” These rules are handled by Ohio statute and do not provide special rules for step-children.
Another way to plan for step-children is for biological or step-parents to take out life insurance policies that benefit their children. Life insurance passes directly to the named beneficiary without going through probate.
There are also a couple ways for parents and step-parents to jointly plan for their children. A spouse’s will may always be changed after the death of another spouse. This means that a step-parent, who previously provided for a step-child in his or her will, could disinherit that child after the death of the his or her spouse. Although you may think this circumstance to be remote, the relationships between step-parents and step-children can and do change after the death of a biological parent. To protect your children from this scenario, you can create a trust for all your children. Also, you can enter into a contract with your spouse to prevent changes to their will that will disinherit your child.
Although there are several options available to blended families and their children, it takes proactive efforts. If the right estate plan is not set up now, there will come a time when it will be too late.