Remember the classic TV sitcom “The Brady Bunch”? It tells the story of two single parents and their children becoming one blended family. On the show, the Brady parents love all six of the kids equally. One could imagine that Carol and Mike’s estate planning made sure the children got equal shares of their assets after they passed away.
In 2020, things in real-life blended families are not always so rosy as ’70s television made it seem. Assuming one parent predeceases the other, the deceased spouse’s assets generally go to the surviving spouse. Then it is up to the surviving parent to decide what to do. Will they divide their estate equally between their biological children and stepchildren? Leave more for their biological kids? Or disinherit the stepkids entirely?
Blended family disputes over estate administration
Often, these outcomes lead to litigation in probate court. When the second spouse dies, their surviving stepchildren may be surprised and angered to know they are not heirs, or that they are receiving significantly less than the deceased’s natural-born children. It can feel like they are missing out on their biological parent’s legacy, or like a betrayal by their stepparent.
Hurt feelings aside, there also could be significant financial assets at stake. Thus, a will challenge or other form of estate litigation is a real possibility. Whether you are involved as an aggrieved stepsibling, sibling, or estate executor, things could get complicated and stressful.
There are ways your biological parent could have avoided probate litigation between yourself and your stepsiblings, such as by using estate planning to secure a portion of their assets for you upon their spouse’s death. But you cannot change the past. What you can do now is make sure your side of the story gets fair legal treatment.
Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer
If you are in the midst of a blended family fight over a parent’s will, you should take action as soon as possible. If you wait too long, you may not get the chance to have a say in how the dispute is resolved. Consult an attorney experienced in estate administration to avoid this result.