Stepchildren and inheritance

Stepchildren, inheritance and family law – what you need to know

In Australia, the family is shifting from a nuclear family to a blended family from different backgrounds and cultures. Between adoption, separations, and a divorce rate of one in three marriages, inevitably many Australian families are made up of biological children, stepchildren, and adopted children.

Under current legislation within most states in Australia, stepchildren are not treated the same as biological children when it comes to wills, inheritance, and claiming from the estate of a deceased parent – and this can leave a tricky grey area when it comes to inheritance law.

Family Law is a national law and thus is the same across Australia. However, again step children are often treated differently to biological children in respect of both parenting arrangements and financial support.

Stepchild vs. biological child

In many situations, stepchildren, adopted children and biological children are seen as different in the eyes of the law. Regardless of how many years your stepchild has lived with you or how close you are to them, this is an unavoidable fact that you should be aware of as soon as possible.

Parents have a legal duty to financially support their biological children but necessarily their step children.

The law provides a right for children to have a relationship, subject to any safety considerations, with their parents. This does not always extend to non biological children, including stepchildren.

How can I prevent these problems for my stepchildren?

As there are many different laws when it comes to your stepchild claiming against a deceased parent’s estate, the best way to make the process easier is to name your stepchildren clearly in your will and outline what they are entitled to. Seek help from an expert while you’re writing your will and planning your estate to ensure that there will be minimal issues or dispute for your family further down the line – it may take a bit of time now, but it will save your loved ones from some potentially difficult legal troubles in the long term.

You should also seek expert family law advice in respect of the extent of the obligation to financially support stepchildren.

What do you think? Should stepchildren be treated the same as biological children under the law? Should they be treated differently?

Do you have a question about family law or relationship law?

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