Can step-parents inherit an entire estate?

If someone dies in Arizona and leaves a will behind, their children might feel like they should get priority over their step-parents. Some people leave everything to their new spouses, assuming that they’ll divide their estate among their children from previous marriages. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The step-parent might not be the children’s biological parent, but they could still inherit the entire estate.

How could a step-parent inherit everything?

According to estate planning laws, the state has to abide by the instructions you made in your will. If you left everything to your new spouse, they’ll get your entire estate–no exceptions. There’s no law that says that they have to share part of your estate with your biological children. They’ll get everything you left them in your will as well as savings accounts, life insurance policies and other assets that have their name as the beneficiary.

If your children and spouse are on good terms, it might seem safe to assume that you can leave everything to your spouse and let them share the assets. However, you can’t guarantee that this will actually happen. When your spouse gets everything, they might decide to keep it for themselves. Your children might try to challenge it in court, but they won’t succeed unless they can prove that their step-parent interfered with your will in some way.

If you’re not sure how to divide up your assets between your children and their step-parent, talk to an estate planning attorney. You might want to give parts of your estate directly to your children or make them the beneficiaries of your financial assets.

Do you have to leave anything to your children or your spouse?

When you write your will, you’re not legally obligated to leave anyone anything. You could leave your entire state to your spouse, give it to your children or donate it all to charity. However, if you’re worried about conflicts among family members, you might want to divide it as equally as possible. Your children might accuse your spouse of tampering or forgery if they don’t get part of your estate.