Step Children And Your Will

Step-Children and Your Will

Jenny Chase, will writer at Quick Will looks at the considerations you need to make for stepchildren when making a will and answers the thorny question will your stepchildren get any of your estate when you die?

English Law states that, for inheritance purposes, the definition of “children” is different from “step-children”. In essence, unless you’ve adopted them, your step-children have no legal right to an inheritance from you; whether you die with or without a Will. So, if you want to leave your step-children any part of your estate at all, you are going to need to name them in your Will.

Step-children are the children of your partner or spouse, that you haven’t adopted. If you have adopted them, they are legally your children, with the same legal connections to you as children born to you, what are known as biological children.

There is no law that requires you to leave any part of your estate to any of your children or step-children and there is no legal tie between you and your step-children. In effect, your legal relationship to your step-children is equivalent to someone with no familial relation. So in terms of Will making, you have no obligation to leave anything to your step-children.

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It Is Easy To Exclude Your Step Child

How to Exclude Your Step-Child

You don’t need to do anything to make sure that your step-child gets nothing through your Will. If you don’t use your Will to leave anything to him or her, then he or she will get nothing.

However, be aware that your step-child could end up with some of your estate via your spouse or partner. If you are married or partnered to your step-child’s parent, you will probably leave a large portion of your estate to your spouse or partner. After your death, your spouse or partner inherits your estate and they will then be free to give whatever they want from the proceeds of your estate to any step-child. In this way, your step child could end up with the proceeds from your Will that you leave to your spouse or partner. This scenario also holds true if you’re married and don’t have a Will, as under the laws of intestacy everything that you own will go to your spouse and children and they are then able to give whatever they wish to your step-child.

How To Ensure Your Step-Children Receive An Inheritance

A stepchild will not automatically inherit from your estate unless they have been legally adopted by you. If you wish to pass on money or other assets to them, then you will need to make a Will to do so. Using your Will, you can leave your step-children a percentage of your entire estate, or you can leave specific gifts, like furniture, jewellery, cars, computers and so on.

In addition to your Will, you can also leave gifts to your step-child using a number of other estate planning tools such as a living trust whereby you can name your step-child as a beneficiary of the trust. Additionally, if you have a life insurance policy you can name your step-child as a beneficiary of the policy.

stepchildren and wills
Stepchildren Can Be Left Out Intentionally and Unintentionally

Leaving an Explanation

When families blend together, family relationships can become complicated and strained, especially when it comes to who gets what after someone dies. If possible, talk to each member of your family to explain your plans and your reasoning about the decisions you make in your Will, trust or general estate plan. This is your best chance of creating peace because you will be available to answer any questions they may have.

However, if talking it over is not possible, or just not your style, you can leave a letter to your survivors explaining your decisions. The letter won’t have any legal weight, but it can be a comfort to those you leave behind. In it you can explain why you gave what to whom. Leave your letter with your other estate planning documents.

Inheritance and stepfamilies

If, as is very common, someone dies without making a Will, that person’s assets are distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These are strict rules that require the assets to go to the dead person’s spouse, children, parents, siblings etc.

It is important to understand that the intestacy rules do not cover stepfamilies unless the parent who died had formally adopted the stepchild. If you and your partner are married that means that you can each inherit a certain amount from each other under the intestacy rules, but that does not include your stepchildren. Only a spouse, a blood relative, or an adopted child can inherit automatically from someone who died without leaving a Will.

It is possible to challenge the effect of the intestacy, but again only people within certain categories of relationship to the person who died are entitled to do this.

Can stepchildren challenge a will?

The basic principle in England and Wales is that each individual is free to make a Will that leaves their assets as they choose. Only people within certain categories of relationship to the person who died are entitled to challenge the Will.

If a stepchild was treated as a child of the family by a married step-parent or was financially dependent on a step-parent who has died, and there is either no or inadequate financial provision on the death of the step parent, he or she can make an application to the court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that “reasonable financial provision” has not been made for them.

It is worth remembering that court proceedings can of course be very stressful and costly and the whole process may damage family relations. Step-children of an unmarried couple can only make a claim on the basis of financial dependency. If the challenge is successful, the amount the stepchild is likely to be awarded by the court will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the estate, the age of the stepchild, his or her needs, the level of the dependency etc.

The Legal Difference between Children and Stepchildren

From a legal standpoint, stepchildren have no rights to their stepparents’ estate, unless they’ve been specifically mentioned in the Will. The rules of intestacy make no provision for step-children even where there are no surviving relatives, so if you want to provide for your step-children you should make a Will. Unlike natural and adopted children, who have automatic rights to inheritances unless specified otherwise, stepchildren need to be cited by name in order to be included in someone’s Will.

Here at Quick Will, our Wills do not use terms like descendants or heirs to refer to children or to step-children, as these terms are not only subject to confusion, they are additionally complicated for blended families with step-children. Instead, we insist that each step-child is named using their individual names.

If you are living in a stepfamily, it is therefore vital that you make a Will that ensures that on your death your assets go to the people who are important to you and that the wording of the Will does not cause any difficulties after your death. Here at Quick Will we recommend you protect every member of your family and make a Will now.

Online Probate Service

The Probate Service has said that it is now accepting personal applications online, providing that the applications meet certain criteria.

If you are the executor of an estate in England and Wales, you can now apply online for probate using a new digital service launched by HM Courts and Tribunal Services. At first the service will only be available to personal applications from executors who are acting alone and have a copy of the original Will. If the Will has been updated with a codicil, the executor will still need to submit a paper application.

online probate application
Probate Applications Now Online

The Probate Service has said the online application form is easier to understand, but it has said applicants will need to provide supporting documents, including the original will and two photocopies, the death certificate and the associated inheritance tax forms.

How does the online probate service work?

The online probate service will allow an executor to submit details online to obtain a grant of probate. However, it is not a fully digital service just yet, as there is still a need to send through copies of the necessary paperwork, including copies of the Will and the Death Certificate. Applying online will of course save executors time, and there will no longer be a need to visit the probate office or a solicitor’s office, and all the hassle that entails, to swear an oath.

How much does it cost to apply for probate?

When you apply for a grant of probate, you will need to pay a fee, which is currently set at £215. However, if the estate is worth less than £5,000 this fee is waived. With the new online probate service, you will be able to pay the probate fees online when you make your application. In time, it is expected to be cheaper to apply for probate online than via the post, and of course there will be no need to pay additional solicitors’ fees.

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Applying for probate online

Online services for more complex cases will be launched later this year, with The Probate Service saying: “We are looking to enhance this in the future, potentially through links with other departments to gather this information automatically as part of the process.”

Jenny Chase one of the experts at leading UK online will writing company Quick Will says: “This will be a relief to those who apply for probate after a loved one dies. There will now be less red tape and anguish as people will no longer have to swear an oath in front of a solicitor. It is great news that this online probate service is now online, and it is yet another example of how the will writing industry is moving online.”

Quick Will Launches

After three months development, we can proudly announce our public launch today on November 1st, 2017.

Quick Will is a new online will writing service exclusively for England and Wales enabling people to get their fully legal will drafted quicker than ever before, in most cases in under ten minutes.

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Quality Will Writing Service
Quick Will – ten minutes is all it takes

The company is founded by a serial entrepreneur, Carl Christensen and an experienced will writer Jenny Chase with Carl stating “We have made it our mission to provide a very fast yet high quality, convenient, stress-free and affordable online will writing service enabling most people to get a personalized will in less than ten minutes. We have simplified the whole process of creating a fully comprehensive, personalized will and we have also created a slick website with a fully featured back end system to make creating a fully legal will that is both quick and easy.”

Quick Will uses the latest technology that enables people throughout England and Wales to create a will from the comfort of their own home in only ten minutes. Moreover, this unprecedented speedy will writing service eliminates any need for a physical appointment with a solicitor. Furthermore, the service is available for singles, couples and families.

The process of writing a will online with Quick Will is simple and clients only have to answer a series of questions on the website to create their own fully legal last will and testament in just ten minutes – the fastest will writing service in the UK. We are also offering a no questions asked full 30 day money back guarantee.