Every individual should have the option to decide exactly what happens with their estate when they pass away. This includes deciding exactly who it goes to. When it comes to inheritance in blended families, it should be no different. However, if you end up remarrying and you introduce step-children into your family, something you will need to consider is your will – do you already have one from your previous marriage? If so, you may need to make changes to your will to reflect your new family members and circumstances. In this article, we’ll explain who should be taking priority in blended families, depending on whether or not you have a will written when you die. If you have any questions or would like to make an enquiry, contact our team today and we’d be happy to help you reach a resolution.

What is a Blended Family?

A blended family (also called a step-family) typically forms when you remarry and the person you marry already has children from a previous relationship or you have children from your previous relationship. Whilst forming a blended family can be a rewarding experience it can also be very challenging for all parties. 

What are the legal rights of inheritance in Blended Families?

With blended families becoming more common throughout the nation, it is essential that everyone understands their rights. These will include:

What are the intestacy rules?

If you die and you don’t have a will written, your estate will be shared out amongst beneficiaries under certain rules. These are intestacy rules. Someone who dies without leaving a will is classed as an intestate person. This ruling only applies to those who are married or are in civil partnerships. If you have written a will but it’s invalid, the intestacy rules will also apply, which is why it is important to adjust your will accordingly if you remarry. You can find out more about intestacy rules and how they affect you.

Typically if you become an intestate person, your new partner will inherit most of the estate. This is usually the first £250,000. If you have biological children, they will also inherit anything left over. If you have step-children, they will not inherit anything. Similarly, once your partner passes away, what was once your inheritance will go to your step-children, not your biological children. If you don’t want this to be the case, you must change your will.

Does my will still stand when I become part of a blended family?

If you had a will written before you remarried (during your first marriage), it may become void. If your will included passing on your estate to your ex-spouse, this was no longer the case when your divorce came through. If you created a will after your divorce, it may have been void on the day you remarried. The validity of the will on your wedding day depends on how it was written – for example, if you have included “in contemplation of marriage” in your will, it will become void on your wedding day.

If you want your estate to be distributed to the right people, you will need to write a brand new will, detailing everyone you want your estate to be passed on to. We advise speaking to an expert, who will be able to guide you through the process of including the right beneficiaries in your will.

Is there a way to safeguard my children’s inheritance in blended families?

The best way to ensure your children’s inheritance is protected is by setting up a special trust in your will. This allows you to be able to provide for your children after you die, whilst looking after your spouse. It means that when you die, your spouse will be able to live on the property, but your share of the property will be kept in a trust. 

Once your partner dies, typically the house will be sold. If you have protected shares in the property, they will be passed on to your children. If the living partner then remarries or needs to go into care, the trust will end – but this all depends on what is written in the will. At this point, the property shares will be passed on to the children. 

Will writing advice from the experts 

To summarise this article, your new spouse and biological children will take priority when it comes to inheritance in blended families if you become intestate. If you do write a will after you remarry, your estate is left to you to decide what happens to it. The experts here at Beeston Shenton have a wealth of knowledge and experience in will writing and understanding the complexities of the law surrounding your wishes. If you need advice on inheritance in blended families or would like to discuss your will with a solicitor, contact us today to make an enquiry. Alternatively, you can take a look at some of our other services.