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Watch out for estate fights with stepmothers

It is not unusual for a parent in Colorado to remarry after the initial marriage ends. However, when parents remarry, it adds a new party to the list of beneficiaries. This may negatively affect surviving children in the event of their parents’ death. In fact, one attorney writing for Forbes noted that 50% of the cases of inheritance disputes at his firm involved stepmothers.  

Here are some of the many ways that the interests of stepmothers and stepchildren may collide:

  •          Joint-tenancy quarrels or deed revocations
  •          Claims of elderly financial abuse
  •          Life-estate challenges
  •          Probate objections
  •          Will contests

Note that there are more widowed women than men in America. Widowed females total 11.2 million, while widowed men only account for 2.9 million. Men with children may need to take additional care with tying up their affairs if their last wife is not the mother of their children. While biological or adoptive mothers may feel more inclined to put the children first, stepmothers may not.

Ironically, CNBC notes that one way that fathers accidentally disinherit their children is by leaving the ex-spouse’s name on documents as a beneficiary. When it comes to the home, the inheritance laws in states can trump even a will to pass the property to the surviving spouse instead of the children, depending on how it is deeded.

When there are minors involved, CNBC recommends a trust. Even young adults who may not have yet learned proper money management skills may benefit from trusts. Trusts may eek out smaller payments to them over time to prevent the likelihood of splurging their entire inheritance irresponsibly.

Of all recommendations, communication is arguably the most important. By having an honest conversation as a family and doing a proper assessment of assets, fathers may ensure that all parties receive the portions of their estate that they intended.

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