In the United States, about 50 percent of all first marriages end in divorce,
so not surprisingly, second marriages and blended families have become
the norm. But does that mean that stepchildren enjoy the same inheritance
rights as biological children?
It depends. In this article, I explain under what circumstances stepchildren inherit
from a stepparent and when they do not.
As a general rule, stepchildren do NOT have the same inheritance rights
as biological and adopted children. If you are a stepparent and you wish
to bequeath some of your assets to your stepchild, you will have to state
that in your
Meaning, you will have to make sure you specifically include him or her
in your will or trust. You can also name your stepchild as a beneficiary
on assets with beneficiary designations, which pass outside of
probate. Otherwise, it is highly likely that your stepchild will not receive a
penny from your estate.
Naming Your Stepchild in a Will or Trust
If you establish a will or trust, or both, and you wish to leave some of
your assets to your stepchild, make sure to include him or her in your
will or trust, and that you mention their name. It’s best to avoid
ambiguity and spell out what property and assets you want to be left to
If you die without creating a will, it’s called “dying intestate.”
When you die intestate, Tennessee state laws determine how your estate
is to be divided, and this usually means it goes to your closest living
relatives, such as a spouse, biological and adopted children, and grandchildren.
It may even go to parents or siblings, but it won’t go to a stepchild,
even if you’ve raised him or her since they were an infant.
What if I Adopted My Stepchild?
If you legally adopted your stepchild, that changes everything and he or
she will be treated exactly the same as a biological child. If you have
not adopted your stepchild and they are under 18, both of his or her biological
parents would have to consent for you to adopt the child. If the stepchild
is 18 or over, you don’t need the parents’ consent to adopt
the stepchild as their stepparent.