VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Stepparents and estates

Blended families are not unusual in Florida. While many stepparents manage to get along just fine with their stepchildren, conflicts can arise. If families cannot work out their differences, problems may resurface after the parent of the adult children dies or becomes incapacitated.

Some lawyers have noted that many cases of estate litigation involve stepparents and stepchildren. This does not mean that any of the parties involved are acting maliciously. However, different priorities and long-standing resentments can create tensions surrounding an estate plan.

Common issues that arise at this time include accusations of a stepparent or child using undue influence to persuade a dying parent to change their will. The adult children of a dying parent may also suspect that a stepparent is angling to get a larger inheritance for their children from a previous relationship.

The consequences of this kind of discord can be severe. Not only can long-term battles over an estate create enormous stress for all parties, the cost of legal and court fees can be significant. In the end, stepparents and children may end up spending most of the estate's value in litigation, something that might have been avoided if all parties had been willing to negotiate.

Individuals who are worried about estate planning matters may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer who is familiar with stepfamily dynamics may be particularly helpful when addressing interfamily conflicts. Legal counsel could help a client develop an estate plan that will not trigger hard feelings or potential litigation. Likewise, an attorney may be able to help family members resolve tensions so that an estate is settled to everyone's satisfaction.

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