Stepchildren and the rules of inheritance
By Maplebrook Wills
14th Jun '19
Stepchildren and your will
If you have stepchildren and you want them to inherit after you die, it’s vital that you make a will.
Why? Because if you don’t write a will, you’ll die ‘intestate’ and your estate is subject to inheritance laws known as the “rules of intestacy”.
The rules of intestacy date back to 1925. Children from current and past relationships are recognised, as well as legally adopted children. But stepchildren aren’t, and neither are unmarried partners.
Here’s how it works.
When you die, any assets that are jointly owned with somebody else – typically bank accounts and houses – immediately become the property of the joint owner.
Everything that isn’t jointly owned forms your estate. What happens next depends on whether or not you have a will.
If you don’t have a will, under the rules of intestacy the first £250,000 of your estate goes to your spouse or civil partner. Unmarried couples aren’t recognised – there’s no such thing as a “common law” wife or husband.
If there’s anything left, it’s split in half. The spouse/civil partner gets one half and children receive the other half, which is split into equal shares. That doesn’t include stepchildren, no matter how long you cared for them or what your relationship is like.
You may think that £250,000 sounds like a lot of money. But remember that this figure could include the value of a house if it’s not jointly owned with anyone else. Given that the average house in the UK is now worth more than £220,000, it’s easy to see it being exceeded in many cases.
If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner will inherit the entire estate.
If the deceased person never had children and doesn’t have a partner, the estate passes in a strict order to other blood relatives: parents first, then siblings, then half-siblings and so on.
By making a will, you’ll ensure that stepchildren do receive something from your estate and you’ll be able to specify the exact amount or portion that they’ll receive.