Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on March 5th, 2018

San Diego Estates and Stepchildren: You May Have Rights to Protect

When a loved one passes away, longstanding personal battles between members of a family may bubble to the surface. Sometimes, those personal battles may involve blended families. Different family members may each have their own feelings on whether stepchildren should inherit the same way as biological children. While every family is unique, and the circumstances will be different for each probate administration. There are some protections built into the California Probate Code for stepchildren in certain cases. As a result, if a stepchild believes that he or she is being unjustly cut out of the estate administration process, there may be grounds to pursue estate litigation.

Issues surrounding blended families and the legal rights of stepchildren are complex and require guidance from an experienced legal professional.

If you are involved in an estate administration and are wondering about the rights of stepchildren, consider the following questions:

  1. Did the relationship between the stepchild and the stepparent begin when the child was a minor?
  2. Did the relationship between the stepchild and the stepparent continue throughout the lifetimes of both the stepchild and the stepparent?
  3. Is there clear and convincing evidence that the stepparent would have adopted the stepchild, except for some legal impediment that existed up until the time that the stepparent died?

One example of this last question would be where the stepchild began the formal adoption process of the stepchild, but the biological parent would not agree to the process. In many cases, this would make it impossible for the stepparent to legally adopt the child. It is important to note, however, that once the child reaches age 18, the biological parent can no longer block the adoption. Therefore, say the child was older than 18 at the time the stepparent passed away. Then the blocked adoption attempt would no longer satisfy the requirement that there be a legal impediment to a formal adoption having taken place prior to the stepparent’s death.

Well, what if the answer to each question is “yes”? Then it is possible that the stepchild may have legal rights to the estate of their stepparent. For more information about pursuing or defending inheritance rights, call our office today at our toll-free number, (888) 443-6590. It would be our pleasure to further assist you.