When a marriage that produced children ends in divorce, it is typical for the children to struggle with the changes as the family evolves. Children may resent one parent whom they view as responsible for the divorce. They may also have trouble bonding with the new partners that their parents eventually want to introduce to the family.
Stepparent conflicts are a well-known problem in blended families. Unfortunately, that conflict could persist even after your death if you don’t take great care when planning your estate. Blended family circumstances, especially ones that may have begun with marital infidelity or where there is a substantial discrepancy in the ages between the spouses, may increase the likelihood of the family having issues during estate administration.
Your children may resent their stepparent or even see them as a gold digger
Getting remarried after a divorce can bring you a sense of happiness and fulfillment that you might have thought you would never experience again. Unfortunately, your remarriage could also cause substantial strife between you and your children.
If your kids resent the presence of their stepparent in their lives, then chances are good that they will also resent the stepparent taking away what they perceive as their inheritance when you die. You may need to start thinking now about ways to smooth over the family conflict and protect your legacy and your new spouse after you pass.
Children could claim undue influence by a stepparent or even alleged fraud
The probate courts typically don’t hear cases stemming from one person’s unhappiness with the terms of the estate plan. Instead, they look at challenges where family members allege the estate plan violates state law or where the circumstances indicate that the terms in the last will don’t accurately reflect the testator’s wishes.
When it comes to a stepparent inheriting a significant portion of the family estate, adult children might claim that the stepparent abused their role as caretaker for an aging parent and convinced them to alter the last will in their favor. Others may take things a step further and try to claim that the estate plan that benefits the stepparent is the product of fraud and request that the courts revert back to earlier plans that may solely benefit the children.
Take steps to minimize estate conflicts
There are multiple ways that you can prevent these sorts of conflicts. Talking openly with your kids about your wishes is one. Adjusting your estate plan to provide for unique circumstances, like the remarriage, of your spouse, is another.
Finally, you may also want to consider creating a trust or even several trusts as a means of limiting the ability of your children to challenge the legacy you intend to leave behind when you die.