Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Florida

rights of step children

I'm trying to find out if my father's step children have any legal right to his estate. My dad was married to their mother for over 20 years, she passed away almost 5 years ago and he has since remarried. All of the children are grown, the youngest being in his mid twenties. My father never legally adopted any of them, my sister & I are his only biological children.After attending the funeral of my uncle a few weeks ago, my Dad decided it was time to make his wishes known in the event of his passing. He has sent us all a letter stating what he would like as far as his burial. There is an issue however, with his step daughter, in regards to his home and other assets. She has expressed that she feels her and her brothers should get everything. He has told her and has put in writing and had notarized that he will be leaving everything to his wife and she may do with it what she decides. I am concerned that this letter isn't enough and am worried about his wife having to fight with this step sister. Is a notarized statement enough? Does a step child have any legal right to a step parents estate? Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated, I don't want my Dad or hiw wife to get caught in some nasty battle or money!!

Asked on 10/20/04, 2:43 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

David Slater David P. Slater, Esq.

Re: rights of step children

Step children have no rights.

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Answered on 10/20/04, 4:35 pm
Daniel Clement Law Offices of Daniel Clement

Re: rights of step children

A notarized statement is not a will. Only a will ensures that his wishes will be honored.

If he dies without a will, his estate will be split between his wife and surviving natural children - not step children.

Daniel Clement

212 683 9551

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Answered on 10/21/04, 1:38 pm
Walter LeVine Walter D. LeVine, Esq.

Re: rights of step children

While I generally concur with the other authors, you do not say if the notarized statement is handwritten or typed. If handwritten, it could qualify as a holographic Will and be dispositive of his estate, if his state of residence recognizes holographic Wills. It is always better to have a formal Will, which should be prepared by an attorney familiar with Wills, although people can use forms bought at local stationery stores, if properly signed, witnessed and notarized in accordance with the applicable state laws. I also concur that merely having a Will does not prevent someone from asserting a claim to the deceased's assets, real or imagined. What you do not cover, is what happens when the new wife passes on. If she is free to give everything to whomever she choses, the fact that you are the only children of your father means nothing, if she survives him. If he truly intends you to get something, or everything, he should provide for this in his Will or place his assets in a trust while he is alive, providing for his spouse during her lifetime and naming the children as remaindermen. I recommend he consult a local attorney to assist him.

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Answered on 10/21/04, 4:13 pm
Stephen Loeb Law Office of Stephen R. Loeb

Re: rights of step children

No. A notarized statement is not enough, your father needs to execute a valid will in order to establish his testamentary wishes. While a will by itself does not prevent someone with standing from challenging the validity of the will, there are mechanisms to eliminate the probability of challenge.

Should you like to discuss this or any other legal matter, you can call my office to schedule an appointment for a consultation or in the alternative, I can be reached for on-phone low-cost legal consultation at 1-800-275-5336 x0233699

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Answered on 10/20/04, 2:54 pm

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