It may seem unfair, but in many states across the country, stepchildren and step-grandchildren are afforded no automatic rights to inheritance from their step-parents or step-grandparents upon their passing.
New York is one such state which requires that a will be written if you intend to leave anything to your stepchildren or step-grandchildren. Otherwise, New York estate law generally requires that someone be related by blood in order to have the right to claim themselves as a beneficiary of the estate.
There are solutions to this, however. The simplest of which is naming your stepchildren and step-grandchildren as beneficiaries in a Last Will and Testament, a trust, or through financial payable-on-death designations.
If you have stepchildren or step-grandchildren and intend to include them in your estate plan, it is important that you speak with an experienced estate planning attorney in order to avoid future headaches and heartache.
What if There is No Will or Legal Document Naming Stepchildren as Beneficiaries?
If a step-parent dies without a will, the natural-born child of other parents has no legal claim to anything in the estate. They may be able to put forth an argument and fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs in court, but there can be no guarantee of success.
There are otherwise no legal terms or rights which stipulate if and when a stepchild who was never adopted or named in a will could seek to obtain assets from a step-parent’s or step-grandparent’s estate.
New York has laws for children who were accidentally disinherited, but these laws do not extend to stepchildren or step-grandchildren.
What if You Adopted the Child?
In New York, the adoption of a stepchild or a foster child will grant them the same rights afforded to any biological child in terms of estate plans.
Even if the step-parent dies without a will, the adopted children will have the right to inherit from the estate under the law.
What if the Child’s Natural Parent Wrote a Will?
In addition or alternative to adopting or writing the stepchild into a will, if their natural-born parents included them in their Last Will, then they may seek to collect an inheritance from those parents.
If the child is named in wills by both natural-born parents and their step-parents, they may potentially collect an inheritance from multiple sources if that is what the parents so wish.
What About Half-Brothers or Half-Sisters?
New York state law dictates that relatives who are of half-blood shall be treated as though they are of whole blood under the law. This means that any half-brothers or half-sisters may expect to have the same legal inheritance rights as their full-blooded siblings.