Do stepchildren have the right to inherit from an estate?

One of the fastest ways to grow a family is to marry someone who already has children. Stepparents gain not just a spouse but also dependents when they marry someone who already has children.

It is common for stepparents to have a close bond with their stepchildren and to want to give them every potential opportunity in life. That desire to provide practical support might lead to the inclusion of stepchildren in an estate plan. Regardless of whether someone has children of their own, they may want to provide an inheritance for their stepchildren. Doing so requires careful planning.

Many adults in Arizona do not currently have a will. Most of those people assume that state law can ensure the comfort and protection of their loved ones if they die without documents. Intestate succession rules do help ensure that someone’s property passes to their family members if they die without a will. Sadly, stepchildren do not have explicit protection under Arizona’s current laws.

A will is necessary for stepchildren to inherit

While stepchildren may be part of someone’s household, they are not technically part of their immediate family. Therefore, when a stepparent dies, their stepchildren do not have an automatic right of inheritance. Biological and adopted children have a right of inheritance, but stepchildren do not.

Usually, the only way for a stepchild to inherit property from their stepparent’s estate is for that person to create a very clear estate plan. Someone’s will can name their stepchildren as beneficiaries and earmark specific assets for them. Stepchildren could also potentially be the beneficiaries of a trust established to control the distribution of someone’s property after they die.

Remarriage is typically a good time to review and update an estate plan anyway. New spouses may need protection, and a testator may need to think about preserving the inheritance of their own children as well as leaving something for their stepchildren.

Someone who has just started a blended family or who has begun to worry about the security of their stepchildren may want to create an estate plan if they don’t already have one. Revising existing estate planning documents can also help protect stepchildren. People derive the most protection from estate planning paperwork if they routinely review and update those documents as their lives change.