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Have a stepparent? You may face probate disputes


Stepparents are becoming increasingly common, as divorce and remarriage are as well. While you may have tried to form strong bonds with your stepparents or at least tried to have amicable relationships, some type of tension may still exist. You may feel especially distrusting if the marriage did not last long before your biological parent passed away.

The death of a parent can bring up many emotions, and it is not unusual for these emotions to cause conflict during the probate process. Commonly, these fights can result between children and stepmothers for various reasons, and you may soon face such contention.

More stepmothers than stepfathers

It may interest you to know that this type of situation does take place more often with stepmothers, but stepfathers can also end up in such conflict. The reason for more cases with stepmothers possibly comes down to statistics. According to research, there are approximately 11 million widowed women and nearly 3 million widowed men. Due to the vast difference in numbers, it stands to reason that more estate litigation cases involving women would come up.

Reasons for disputes

Children often have a sense of loyalty to their biological mothers and other members of their biological families. As a result, it is not unusual for problems to arise between children and stepmothers soon after the father's death. For instance, children may think that their father's burial plot should be next to or near their mother's. However, a stepmother may have different ideas. In worst-case scenarios, a stepparent may move forward with laying the spouse to rest without informing the biological family of the location.

Some other reasons that conflict may arise during probate include the following:

  • Short-term marriages: If a father and stepmother tied the knot not long before the father's death occurred, the children may think that the stepmother was only after money.
  • Dementia: Children may also worry that a stepmother may have taken advantage of a father who was suffering from dementia and had estate plans changed in her favor.
  • Stepsibling issues: Some children may also think that a stepmother showed favoritism to her own biological children and may have attempted to cheat her stepchildren in favor of her own kids.

These issues are only a few that can result from blended families. While it is certainly possible that blended families can get along just as well as biological families, room for conflict still exists.

Dealing with disputes

If you feel like a stepparent has unjustly taken advantage of your biological parent in hopes of gaining more from the estate, you may rightfully worry that your loved one's true intentions and final wishes will fall to the wayside. Fortunately, you can discuss your concerns and legal options with an attorney to determine whether probate litigation may suit your circumstances.

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