Blended Family Estate Disputes | Widowed Stepmothers
Why do disinheritance issues often arise in blended families? Given the high incidence of divorce in the United States, at least half of America’s children live with a biological parent and a stepparent.
Blended families have many challenges, among them: different parenting styles; conflicting emotions and the natural stresses associated with change. Sibling rivalry may spring up between biological children and stepsiblings.
Longevity for Americans over the age of 50 is expected to exceed that of previous generations. There is a female advantage in longevity, and the advantage has widened over the years.
It is close to 7 years in the United States. So, it stands to reason that there will be more widowed stepmothers than widowed stepfathers.
In fact, in the United States, it is estimated that there are 11.2 million widowed stepmothers and 2.9 million widowed stepfathers. Only about 20% of adult stepchildren feel close to their stepmoms.
There are likely invisible psychological bonds that favor biological children over stepchildren. When a biological parent is in cognitive decline, he or she is susceptible to undue influence. Undue influence is excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.
A relatively common occurrence often triggers estate, trust, and elder financial abuse litigation. A father, vulnerable to others because of Alzheimer’s, incapacity, illness or some other factors is moved to change his estate plan to give virtually everything to his second or third spouse.
The father’s previous estate plan often provided for an equal division between his biological children and his surviving spouse. The later estate plan completely excludes his biological children. When his surviving children learn of the changes after his death, emotions of abandonment and betrayal are natural. These emotions are potent kindling for estate fights.
Absent cognitive decline, estate plans allocating inheritance to both biological children and a surviving spouse often remain unchanged. It is the change that triggers the estate and trust fights, fights that can be quite destructive to estate assets and ultimate inheritances. In either case, whether the estate plan was changed or not, when a father disinherits his biological children there are ways of surviving children addressing the issue.
Intentional or unintentional disinheritance happens routinely, but an experienced attorney has ways to fight for the heirs. Hackard Law focuses on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. We accept cases where we believe that we can make a significant difference and there is a person who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing.
Call us if you would like to discuss your case: 916-313-3030.