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A Stepchild’s Legal Right to Contest the Will of Their Stepparent

A Stepchild's Legal Right to Contest the Will of Their Stepparent

In Australia, blended families are becoming increasingly common. This is because one-third of married couples opt for divorce later in life.

With divorces, separations, and de facto relationships, the family structures are now much more diabolical, often including biological offspring, adopted children, and stepchildren.

This increasingly complex family structure has led to an increase in the number of stepchildren contesting wills. Estate disputes can turn ugly when there’s no will. When a will legally valid exists, the inheritance distribution becomes comparatively simple.

But what if stepchildren are not a part of the will? Do they have the right to contest? Will a particular property share automatically pass to stepchildren in the event of the death of a stepparent?

Let’s find out!

If you want help preparing a will or contest against a will, it is recommended that you hire wills and estate lawyer to help you through the legal processes.

Who is a stepchild?

The Family Law Act of 1975 defines a stepchild as a minor whose biological parent gets re-married (not to the biological father) or is in a de facto relationship with another individual who isn’t the child’s biological parent.

The stepchild doesn’t need to live in the same residence as their stepparent.
Additionally, they can no longer be considered stepchildren if the stepparent adopts them. It’s also crucial to know that de facto relationships also encompass same-sex couples.

Since the Family Act Law is national, parents across Australia are legally obligated to provide financial support to their biological children.

However, the rules applicable to stepchildren and adopted children can vary from one state to another. These rules can include parenting arrangements and providing financial support.

If you want to contest a will left by your stepparent, connect with the best law firms in Australia for correct guidance.

Does a legally valid will automatically cover stepchildren?

Under the current legislation, steps children in most Australian States, including New South Wales, don’t have the same legal rights as biological children for inheritances and Wills.

Therefore, if a stepchild is claiming the right to the property of the deceased stepparent, inheritance law can be a complex grey area. To get the correct legal guidance for an inheritance, hire a Sydney property lawyer.

Parents in blended families generally ensure their partner, spouse, and adopted or biological children are all provided for in their will. However, depending on the relationship and financial condition, they may not decide to include their stepchildren.

When parents in blended families pass away without having a legally valid will, the estate gets distributed under the state’s intestacy laws.

In most circumstances, the estate is evenly distributed between their partner/spouse and/or biological children. Since stepchildren don’t have a biological relationship with the deceased, it’s unlikely they would be eligible for automatic inheritance through this division.

What criteria does the court consider to determine a stepchild’s eligibility to contest a will?

The primary factors the court considers to determine the eligibility of a stepchild to contest a will include:

  • The closeness of the relationship or bonding: Can the stepchild’s and stepparent’s relationship be described as parent and child? Was the stepchild raised and treated as a permanent member of the family?
  • Age of stepchild, when they became a family member.
  • The level of dependency or extent to which the deceased supported the stepchild. This can include financial, educational, and emotional support.

How can lawyers help you to contest a will?

Wills and estate disputes involving stepchildren can soon become complicated. Wills and estate lawyers are specifically experienced and qualified for handling such disputes.

While stepchildren may have legal rights in certain states to claim their stepparent’s deceased estate, they must first establish their eligibility. The eligibility criteria vary depending on individual circumstances and may encompass more than one criterion.

Stepchildren and anyone wanting to contest a Will in NSW must file a legally valid claim within 12 months.

Eligibility to contest a Will doesn’t guarantee they’ll receive any provision against the estate. A guarantee to accept any provision can only be established after the application and Court approval.

These reasons make it crucial to get legal advice from the best law firms in Australia. A property or family lawyer with expertise in estate cases can help determine stepchildren’s eligibility before filing a claim in court. They’ll work to ensure every obligation is met throughout the case.

What factors should you examine while hiring a lawyer?

Having the best lawyer increases your chances of gaining guaranteed provision from the estate.

When hiring a lawyer, ensure to check the following:

  • How many years of professional experience and expertise are they managing wills and estate cases?
  • In how many similar cases have they achieved success?
  • How is the market reputation of the law agency?
  • What is the qualification of the lawyers they are assigning for your case?

The success of any claim depends on the strength of the stepchild’s claim and eligibility compared to other beneficiaries who are included within the will and any other unnamed competitors. Therefore hiring a reputed and reliable property lawyer in Sydney is necessary.

Final word

Losing someone close and battling a financial crisis can be extremely difficult. During such circumstances, arranging the correct documentation and completing the paperwork for filing a claim on the stepparent’s estate can be challenging. That’s where an established law firm comes in. They can guide you to prove eligibility for the contest and follow the best pathway to win the case.

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