When people remarry, they often rewrite their wills to ensure that their new spouses are covered. Unfortunately, their children from previous marriages and relationships may be left without any inheritance, even if that's not what their parents intended.
Sometimes people designate that their spouses receive all of their assets if they predecease them, and they stipulate that if they don't predecease their spouses, everything goes to their children. Unfortunately, if the parent dies before the stepparent, that stepparent has no legal obligation to share any of the inheritance with the kids.
If a parent had a life insurance policy with the kids listed as the beneficiaries, they would still be entitled to those funds, regardless of what is stipulated in the will. The same is true of retirement and brokerage accounts where they were listed as beneficiaries.
That's why it's essential when drafting or revising your estate plan to include a new spouse to stipulate that your children and/or other family members will receive a share of your assets if that's what you want. Otherwise, you may create some serious animosity between your kids and your spouse.
People who find themselves in this situation after a parent dies may be able to work something out with their stepparent so that they at least get some items that have sentimental value to them. As we saw in the case of comedian Robin Williams, his children and his widow ended up in a legal battle over relatively small but sentimental items like watches, a bicycle and his awards. despite the fact that he had a detailed estate plan.
An experienced California estate planning attorney can help you draft or redraft your estate plan to help ensure that your children are not unintentionally excluded from a portion of your assets after your remarriage. You can also designate that they get any items of value to them without having to fight for them.
Source: MarketWatch, "My stepmother inherited my father’s estate when he died — what can I do?," Quentin Fottrell, Nov. 18, 2016