If you are a parent or an adult child in a blended family, you may be wondering about inheritance rights for the different children involved. We’re discussing what Georgia law says regarding the rights of half-siblings and step-children.
While some states consider the inheritance rights of half-siblings to be “weaker” or “less than” full-blooded siblings, Georgia treats them the same. Under Georgia law, siblings and half-siblings will receive the same share of their parents’ estate.
So, for example, let’s say a man has one child with his first spouse (Child A), and two more children with his second spouse (Child B, Child C). Child B and Child C are siblings; Child A is their half-sibling. Under Georgia Law, Child A, Child B, and Child C all have the same rights to their father’s estate. If the father and his second spouse pass away before their children, Child A has the same rights to the father and second spouse’s property as Child B and Child C. The assets are split equally among the three siblings.
Step-Children: Legal Obligations
A step-child is the child of a person’s spouse or partner. If a step-parent adopts their step-child, they legally become their children, and have the same legal connections as children born to that parent. But if the step-parent does not adopt their step-child, there is no legal relationship between the two.
In terms of estate planning, the step-parent has no legal obligation to leave anything to their step-child or step-children. Step-children have no legal right to an inheritance from their step-parent. Further, Georgia does not have any laws in place that require a step-parent to leave a portion of their estate to their step-children, even if the parent dies without a will in place.
Including a Step-Child in an Estate Plan
If a step-parent wants to include their step-child or step-children in their estate plan, there are a few options available. The parent can leave a financial gift to the step-child, or specify that the step-child should receive a specific percentage of their estate. The step-parent can also bequeath certain assets or possessions to their step-child (ex: vehicle, computer, jewelry, art, or a sentimental item). If a step-parent is including their step-child in their will, it’s a good idea to not use terms such as “child,” “heir,” or “descendant” to describe them – this can lead to confusion or issues later on.
In addition to including a step-child in their will, the step-parent could also set up a living trust or special needs trust and name the step-child as the beneficiary. They could also set up a life insurance policy or pay-on-death financial account and name the step-child as the beneficiary.
Excluding a Step-Child From an Estate Plan
If a step-parent does not want to include their step-child or step-children in their estate plan, there are no additional, special steps to take. Legally, a step-parent is not obligated to include a step-child in their inheritance. So, if the step-parent doesn’t include a step-child in their will, the step-child will not receive anything.
However, it is important to note that if a step-parent leaves his current spouse or partner part of their estate, it is likely that the step-child (who is the child of that spouse or partner) will eventually end up with some of the step-parent’s property or assets.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates’ Estate Planning Team
If you have questions about blended families and inheritance, or if you would like to schedule an estate planning consultation, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009 or via our website. Our team of experienced estate planning attorneys would be happy to help.