In California, stepchildren can inherit from an estate if there is no will and under specific circumstances. If you have stepchildren, thinking ahead to your wishes for them may motivate you to do some estate planning.
Stepchildren and Intestate Succession
Intestate succession is the legal order in which heirs inherit if there is no will. Generally, intestate succession favors close relatives over more distant ones, and the spouse and natural children over anyone else. Since stepchildren are not natural children, they are not as likely to inherit. Some people do adopt their stepchildren, in which case the stepchildren are treated like natural children for intestate succession purposes.
In California, stepchildren can inherit from someone if there are no other close relatives alive. For example, if a person dies with no living relatives at all (no spouse, children, parents, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.), then the children of a spouse who previously died may inherit. Further, if a person dies with some relatives alive, stepchildren may still inherit if the spouse died only a few years beforehand. (See Probate Code Sections 6402 and 6402.5.) These situations are fairly rare, however, as most people have other relatives alive (such as cousins) when they pass away.
Stepchildren and Estate Planning
The rules listed above only apply if the person who dies has not made a will. You can purposely structure your estate to pass in part to your stepchildren by doing some estate planning. A will generally disposes of your money, real estate, and personal property to the heirs that you choose. You can make specific gifts in the will, or you can distribute a percentage of the estate to each heir.
Other estate planning structures can come in handy for making sure that you provide for your stepchildren. For example, you could create a trust that includes both your natural children and stepchildren as beneficiaries. Or you could consider contributing to their college funds while they are younger instead of, or in addition to, forming a trust. You have many options, but if you want your stepchildren to inherit, you should take some action to begin an estate plan.
Planning your estate and have stepchildren? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.
Thank you for bringing this issue up so clearly. The question here then is the question of step-children being able to take advantage of Proposition 13, to keep (step) parents property taxes with the ability to transfer (step) parents property taxes while avoiding property tax reassessment obviously – retaining (step) parents low Proposition 13 tax base of course… just as blood children do when inheriting property, with normal property tax transfer, enabled by Proposition 58 with the usual trust loan from a California trust lender – to equalize liquidation for beneficiaries who may also be step-children, who wish to sell inherited property while the another beneficiary wants to keep the property. The usual conflict. So step-children should be able to enjoy tax benefits of inheriting low Prop 13 property taxes from step-parents, no? This is an interesting question. And enjoy the enabling aspects of Proposition 58 as well, right? Seems to me is should go this way.
Property tax transfer works this way for blood children in California, benefiting from this tax shelter – so why not step-children. Plus shouldn’t step-children also benefit from the low California 1978 Proposition 13 tax base? Unless there can’t also be blood children involved as well… Only step-children. What about all the step-children, going back to 1986 forward… with Prop 58 in effect for property tax transfer scenarios.
So then beneficiaries that are step-children have to do some careful research on this beneficiary buy-out process, if they’re thrown into the age old conflict, with one sibling wanting to keep inherited property and the others wanting to sell, as is often the case. I’d like to know how the BOE addresses this, at https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/proptax.htm which really is the official site for this process… and then go to some info sites like https://propertytaxtransfertrusts.com for objective information… or maybe go to a California based Website that focuses largely on California Proposition 58 property tax transfer, as well as on how the real estate inheritance process works paying off beneficiaries who wish to sell inherited property, while you can keep that property just the same, and save on the taxes, on sites like Prop 58 Archives - Commercial Loan Corp, Provider of Trust Loans, Estate Loans and Probate Loans This would give beneficiaries a chance to dig up info on Prop 58, property tax transfer and step-children, I think. So they can then talk to trust lenders about loans to trusts, trust loans in general, and inheriting a home from a step-parent or parents. It’s all rather complicated.
Posted by: Geoffrey Sandler | 04/21/2020 at 04:55 PM
I'd like to add an addendum, in case anyone reading this genuinely needs reliable information on trust loans or trust lenders, and on loans to irrevocable trusts or other types of loans to trusts... whatever the case may be, to equalize liquidation to siblings, in this case involving property tax transfer and Proposition 58 and step-siblings not blood-siblings, but all beneficiaries just the same, right? Fair is fair, seems to me, when inheriting property taxes... when step-children are as close to their step-parents sometimes even closer than so-called blood children who can take advantage of Prop 58, property transfer and the right to keep parents property taxes, to transfer parents property taxes at the same low tax rate that their parents had -- or in this case, step-parents. Step-children should research (step) parent to child transfer or (step) parent to child exclusion at California based sites like https://cloanc.com/tag/california-prop-58 or perhaps another California Website like https://trustandestate.loans/california-proposition-58 both that focus largely on Prop 58 and parent to child property tansfer and of course how exactly do you transfer parents property taxes,
when you're iheriting property taxes, and rather inheriting a house and/or land from parents -- again, in this scenario step-parents. As well as the official, rather dry BOE Website that should cover all of this -- at https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/proptax.htm If they don't cover this step-child issue fully, then I imagine no one will.
Posted by: Geoffrey Sandler | 04/21/2020 at 05:29 PM
I would love some insight- there are 3 stepchildren ages 48-56 our dad was in our lives for over 37years. Unfortunately our mom passed first. I asked our nephew to step in as probate administrator as my sister and I live on the East Coast. He did so, stating from the beginning we would all split the estate. Now his attorney has directed him to not give the 3 of us money according to probable codes in California staying stepchildren get nothing. Can the administrator still decide to give money to the stepchildren? According the my nephew he has no choice. My feeling is he is just another person who isn’t keeping their word.
Posted by: Angel Miller | 07/02/2021 at 09:56 AM