“There are unique challenges to families with adopted children and stepchildren which may require the estate owner to plan accordingly,” an HG.org Legal Resources article points out. At Geyer Law, we’ve found, estate planning challenges often present themselves with same-sex couples (both married and unmarried) when it comes to adopted children and stepchildren.
Under Indiana law, both same-sex and heterosexual couples may adopt a child. In fact, there is no marriage requirement, so a single individual is also able to adopt children. If the couple is married, however, they will be required to adopt jointly. Once adopted, a child’s legal ability to inherit is not different from a biological child. Stepchildren, in contrast, who have not been adopted by a parent’s new spouse, have no inheritance rights from that spouse.
When it comes to providing for children in an estate plan, it is not only LBGTQ situations that call for specialized estate planning, but any situation in which someone adopts a child but is not married to the other parent. As HG.org Legal Resources cautions, “Custody also becomes an issue along with the estate assets passed to children of unmarried parents.” Unique issues can also arise when families of the person who has died contest the will.
When proper estate planning is done, Indiana statutes are beneficial in same sex partner situations, allowing unmarried same sex partners to adopt children or use artificial insemination to conceive a child, with both partners becoming legal parents of that child. Same sex married couples are also allowed to list both parents on the child’s birth certificate.
In any situation where children are involved, it is crucial to consider guardianship when creating an estate plan. If there is more than one minor child, each will need to have a guardian (as well as a successor guardian) named.
As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “For the most part, the term ‘traditional family’ describes a two-parent family with a mother and father raising their biological children., however, as the PEW research center states, “Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse family forms.”
“The rise of blended families, cohabitating couples, artificial reproductive technology, same-sex marriages, and other trends mean only one-third of American households are ‘traditional’” families. The other two-thirds are non-traditional families, experiencing unique needs that challenge current estate planning models.”
What we’re finding at our estate planning law practice, is that, for families with stepchildren or adoptees, estate planning needs to be very individualized and very flexible In order to fit the client’s needs and goals.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer