Divorce has become a common experience for modern American families. So has remarrying, resulting in what people now call blended families. Divorced parents who already have children from previous marriages fall in love and start new, blended families. These families can be incredible sources of support, but they can also give rise to unique legal considerations for estates and last wills.
The longer a parent stayed married to the stepparent of their children, the more likely it is that the family will have cohesively bonded. However, when a parent marries later in life, especially if they do so with someone much younger than themselves, that can foment anger and resentment. It can also prompt challenges to the last will or estate in probate court after the death of one parent.
Children can view stepparents as gold-diggers
People fall in love for all kinds of reasons, and there is no way to predict how a relationship between two people will eventually play out. There is no age gap so wide that love cannot bridge it. Still, many children of aging parents will look at a younger stepparent suspiciously, particularly if their parent has significant assets.
They may worry that this person has only entered the life of their loved one for the potential windfall. Children of the older parent may feel like the last will validates their suspicions if their inheritance has decreased to benefit their stepparent.
It is normal and natural to feel anger and frustration when you believe that someone intentionally took advantage of your family’s financial resources or your aging parent’s loneliness. It is true, especially in situations with a caregiver spouse, that undue influence can be one of the reasons why someone makes changes to their will.
Stepparents as caregivers can create real concern
Sometimes, when an individual who is determined to gain an inheritance comes into a family, they take intentional steps to destabilize the existing relationships. For example, if the older spouse has medical issues that keep them from leaving the house, their caregiver spouse may choose not to let their children visit.
They may claim that the parent doesn’t want to see the kids or just that they are not well enough for company. They do this to alienate the aging adult from their family support and make it easier to suggest that revisions to the last will are necessary. With a spouse slowly feeding them ideas that their children no longer love or respect them, it becomes more likely that a parent will disinherit their children.
In a situation where a new stepparent receives a full inheritance at the expense of you and your siblings, you may be able to contest the changes based on the undue influence of your stepparent who also served as caregiver. Discussing the exact situation, including your expectations for the estate, with an experienced Ohio probate attorney can help you formulate a legal strategy for connecting with the legacy your parent wanted to leave for you.