Why stepmothers and stepchildren end up in estate disputes

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2023 | Estate And Trust Litigation

Do you ever wonder why stepmothers get such a bad rap? Blended families have become increasingly common in modern society, but this can lead to some complex family dynamics. And, since women tend to outlive the men in their lives, it can also lead to some serious estate disputes between stepmothers and their stepchildren.

Let’s be clear: Stepmothers aren’t generally the cause of problems. It’s just that the interests of a newly-widowed stepmother and the interests of her spouse’s biological children with a previous partner don’t always mesh. In addition, there are other issues that tend to cause estate disputes, including:

Lack of clarity around sentimental items

Many people do not clearly write down their wishes around family heirlooms, and this can lead to confusion and disagreements among family members. A new widow may not want to give up her husband’s watches to her stepson, for example, while the stepson may feel they are rightfully his – as verbally promised by their father.

This can be exacerbated by the fact that stepmothers and stepchildren may not have a close relationship, which can make it difficult to have honest and open conversations about everyone’s needs and goals.

Different expectations and assumptions

Another common reason for estate disputes is different expectations and assumptions about what it means when the family patriarch dies. For example, a stepmother may assume that she will inherit her husband’s entire estate and the home in which she lives, while the children from his previous marriage may assume that they will receive a large share of the liquid assets and the family home in which they were raised.

Emotional baggage from previous relationships

Another factor that can contribute to disputes between stepmothers and stepchildren is emotional baggage from previous relationships. For example, if the stepchildren have a negative view of their father’s second marriage, they may be more likely to challenge his wife’s share of the estate.

If you’re involved in a dispute over an estate, it’s natural to feel angry and confused – but don’t wait to act. A prompt response can help you preserve your rights and obtain what you’re rightfully due.