FREAKY FRIDAY – The Evil Stepmother
These events are standard, as many of us are from blended families. Mum and dad split up and re-married. We now have step-siblings and an extended family. All are friendly with significant 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 will leave their estate to their spouses and children if their spouse is no longer here. But this is intended for biological parents. Your mum or dad 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 it all to their new spouse, you do not get a say as this document is legally binding. Only when both parents die would you then get a part of mum or dad’s estate AND would have to share with step-siblings if the wills function as a mirror (they say the same.)
My client from South Africa came from a wealthy family with a huge house that dad continued living in after mum passed away. She had three other siblings. Dad decided to re-marry as he was lonely, and all 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.
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 met, the interior became more to her taste. The last visit was an insult as she had redecorated all 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 five 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 the first set of children would inherit regardless.
In certain parts of the world – common-law countries – you have the testamentary freedom to leave all you own to anyone you like and change it anytime. 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 the dad’s will, and no one can dispute this if the will is valid.
The original children lost everything except what was in the attic.
Certain countries – civil law – would not permit this to happen as children always participate in the distribution, but you should check the rules of the country that your assets are in to check.
Please ensure you have the proper instructions, not just the right people. If your situation changes, you should review your legacy instructions to ensure that your wishes are permanently adhered to and that your loved ones do not miss out.
Feel free to contact us at www.careysuen.com if you have any questions.