These events are quite common as many of us are from blended families. Mum and dad split up and re-married – we now have stepsiblings and an extended family. All friendly with major family events for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, christenings and many more.
This is until our biological parent dies having re-written a will without understanding the consequences. Most people would leave their estate to their spouses then onto their children if their spouse is also no longer here BUT this is intended for biological parents – your mum or dad remaining would pass their estate onto you when they go next.
For a stepparent, this is not necessarily the case. If your parent has re-written their will and handed all to their new spouse, you do not get a say as this is a legally binging document. Only when both parents die would you then get a part of mum or dad’s estate AND would have to share with stepsiblings, if the wills are written as mirror (they say the same.)
My client from South Africa came from a wealthy family, had a huge house that dad continued to live in after mum passed away. She had 3 other siblings. Dad decided to re-marry as he was lonely, and all of his children were in different parts of the world. His girlfriend was only a year younger than his youngest daughter, my client and had a daughter of her own.
Everyone was happy for dad until the new wife started to remove old heirlooms from the family home. She put them in the attic. Each time they went for a visit, the interior became more to her taste. The last visit was a sort of insult as she had redecorated all of their previous bedrooms and placed them all into different rooms to sleep.
Dad died shortly after and he had re-written his will to leave ALL to his new wife, contingent to be the 5 children. He did not consider that the new wife would inherit and re-write her will to leave all to her daughter. There were no clauses to ensure that all of first set of children would inherit regardless.
In certain parts of the world – common-law countries – you have the testamentary freedom to leave all that you own to anyone you like and change it at any time. My client’s family were from one of these countries (South Africa) and legally, the new wife is entitled to claim all, as stipulated in dad’s will, and no one can dispute this if it was executed properly.
The original children lost everything, except what was in the attic.
Certain countries – civil-law – would not permit this to happen as children are always included in distribution but you should check the rules of the country that your assets are in to check.
Ensure that you have the right instructions in place, not just the right people. If your situation changes at any time, you should review your legacy instructions to ensure that your wishes are always adhered to and that your loved ones do not miss out.