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Stepsiblings, blended families and the potential for estate disputes

Many blended families work out very well and all of the new siblings get along wonderfully. However, there are also cases in which things do not go as smoothly as hoped. The two sides of the family may remain at odds or never really get close.

When it comes to estate disputes, it’s important to consider this dynamic. After all, sibling rivalry is a well-known cause of such disputes, and some say a rivalry between stepsiblings is even more difficult to manage.

When did the blending occur?

One potential factor is when the families became blended. If it happened when the kids were young, odds are they really see each other as siblings. This doesn’t mean they won’t enter a dispute, but it’s similar to a traditional estate situation.

But consider a situation where a second marriage happened after all of the children were adults. They likely will never see each other as siblings. They won’t feel any obligation to watch out for each other and may be more likely to see one another as rivals.

For instance, perhaps one parent has a lot of assets and the other does not. The biological children of that affluent parent may think that all of the assets should go to them because they’re the only “real” children. If the parents decide to split the money equally between all of the children — in an attempt to avoid disputes — the biological children of the affluent parent may think of the arrangement as inherently unfair. Likewise, if the stepchildren are cut completely out of the estate plan, they may feel that the arrangement is unfair.

What are your options?

Again, this doesn’t happen in all cases and many blended families get through probate without any major issues, but it’s still wise to consider how a more complex family situation can lead to problems when it comes to estate distribution. It is important for the parents and stepchildren in this situation to know exactly what legal options they have.


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