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Probate Horror Story #16: Feuds with Stepmothers

Welcome to the 16th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month our topic covered the potential pitfalls of blended families without a will. This month looks at the possibility of infighting over the inheritance (or exclusion) among step-parents, natural children and stepchildren.

Fictional Situation: Darren

  • Divorced and remarried to Jocelyn
  • Has 2 adult children from previous marriage
  • Jocelyn has 1 adult child
  • Has created a will

When Darren remarried, he updated his will to state that Jocelyn would receive his estate. If Jocelyn should pass away before him, all of his assets would be divided equally among the 3 adult children. When Darren passed away first, all of his assets were legally dispersed to Jocelyn. As the stepmother of Darren’s 2 adult children, Jocelyn did not give any of the estate to her stepchildren at the time of his passing. Instead, Jocelyn chose to give part of the estate to her own adult child. All life insurance policies and other non-probate accounts Darren owned that named Jocelyn as the beneficiary automatically went to her.

Jocelyn will now be able to create a new will that includes all of Darren’s previous assets as her own. She may be able to completely write out her stepchildren. As owner of the assets, Jocelyn has no legal requirement to pass any of the estate to her adult stepchildren. They could protest the will in probate, but the process could be lengthy, expensive and potentially unproductive. The best bet would be for the stepchildren to befriend the stepmother and try to get their portion of the estate (or sentimental items) from her out of her own kindness – not legal obligation.

Much of this probate mess could have been avoided if Darren had used different wording in his will. The Denver will lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you use the right terminology to protect your entire family from probate infighting. Call (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to learn more about how to craft a good will in Colorado.

Watch for our blog next month for the next installment in our Probate Horror Story Series.