Can your stepmother challenge your father’s will for more money?

Blended families are common in modern America. Some blended families form when people die and their spouses get remarried. Other blended families form after a divorce. As a child of a blended family, even if you were an adult when your parent remarried, it may have been difficult for you.

Especially if the new spouse played a role in the end of your parents’ marriage or if there is a substantial age gap that makes you feel like a new spouse aims to take advantage of your parent, you may resent their presence in your family and their impact on household finances and routines.

When your parent dies, the potential risk for conflict with your stepparent increases dramatically. Can your stepmother challenge a last will or estate plan if she isn’t happy with her inheritance?

People typically need grounds to challenge a last will

To bring a challenge against an estate plan, last will or trust, the individual bringing the challenge usually needs legal grounds for doing so. Fraud, undue influence by a third party and even lack of capacity at the time of the last will’s creation could all lead to a challenge. People without valid grounds likely can’t ask the probate courts to intervene simply due to disappointed expectations.

However, the spouse of the deceased party has special rights to support and an inheritance under Ohio law. A spouse has the statutory right to inherit a specific portion of someone’s estate or to allow the last will to stand. They can choose to ask for the option that gives them greater financial benefits.

In other words, a spouse has one more reason than most other heirs or beneficiaries to bring a challenge against an estate plan or last will.

A spouse’s rights depend on the children in the family

Ohio has a relatively thorough law regarding the statutory right of inheritance for a spouse upon the death of their spouse. Depending on whether your deceased parent only had biological children from a previous relationship or if they shared children with your stepmother, her options for inheritance will vary.

If all of the children are not related to her, a stepmother will receive the first $20,000 in value from the estate, as well as a third of the remaining value of the estate. If she and your father had children together, she has the option of claiming the first $60,000 worth of value and a third of the remainder.

Understanding the rules that govern probate and last wills in Ohio can help you make better decisions as a beneficiary or executor during the administration of an estate.