If you have an elderly parent who remarried, you might be someone who questions whether or not that stepparent should have the same rights to your parent's estate as you do. Interestingly, many cases go to court because of disputes between stepchildren and their stepmothers. It's normal for the interests of these two groups of beneficiaries to conflict with one another, leading to problems overall.
Statistics show that only around 20 percent of stepchildren feel close to their stepmothers, which could account for some of the issues that arise after a parent's passing. The most common issues erupt because of short-term marriages that disrupt the plans the parent had before the new stepmother was in the picture. Beneficiaries, particularly stepchildren, may argue undue influence by the stepmother, even if that wasn't the intention.
Another major issue is if there are stepchildren that the stepmother favors. If she has a child, for example, she might try to put her child before her stepchildren. That would reflect badly on her throughout the family, but by law, it may be her right to do with the estate as she pleases.
How can parents help avoid estate disputes?
Take the time to set up a will and trust. Having a will and trust put together relieves the stress that could happen if you make changes your children don't understand. Leaving clear instructions with your wishes makes it easier for a court to rule as you would have wanted as well. Your attorney can help you set up a will and trust that addresses your estate's needs.
Source: Forbes, "Stepmothers: The Cause Of So Many Estate Fights," Michael Hackard, accessed Feb. 28, 2018