If you ask most estate planning attorneys about the parties that are most apt to get involved in contested will disputes, they’ll likely tell you that they see more than their fair share of ones between stepchildren and their stepmothers.
Research that has been done regarding stepparents shows that stepmothers often live far longer than stepfathers. This complicates things when it comes to settling an estate, especially since studies have shown that only 20 percent of stepchildren who are adults claim to have a close relationship with their stepmoms. Most of those relationships don’t improve with time.
While, as you may suspect, California stepmothers and their stepchildren who don’t get along often quarrel about the handling of an estate, such discussions have a way of turning those who were once on good terms into enemies.
It also shows that the more unevenly assets are set to be distributed between stepmother and stepchildren, the more likely that they’ll end up embroiled in a battle in probate court.
One common issue that stepchildren and their stepmothers fight about is whether the father or husband should be entombed or cremated, where the burial should happen or their ashes should be kept. This often happens soon after the biological parent’s death.
Other cases may get filed by adult children against their father’s wife if the marriage was short-lived — or when a child suspects the stepmother of exerting undue influence over a parent who had dementia or another health issue.
In other instances, a stepmother’s favoritism for one child may affect the distribution of assets. Those who are shut out may file suit to get a piece of what they feel that they deserve.
Generally, any beneficiary or creditor is entitled to challenge a will. The onus falls on their shoulders to convince a judge that impropriety has occurred. Before you make such claims, you’ll want to consult with an experienced and diligent general estate litigation attorney who has a strong track record of success in handling some of the most complex cases in Lafayette.