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Protecting every member of your family

Blended families are increasingly common. Couples divorce and either the husband or wife (or both) will remarry, making their children part of new, blended families.

The shifts in families can prompt questions about the rights stepchildren have to inheritance under Florida law.

A recent article penned by a Florida attorney south of Cocoa gets right to the point: "For inheritance purposes, under Florida law your stepchild is not considered your heir, regardless of the warmth of the bond you share," the estate-planning lawyer writes in the Palm Beach Post.

Of course, there's more to know. For instance, if you were to die without a will, your stepchild would be have a legal claim on anything in the estate. So if you want your stepchild to be treated by the law as your other birth children, he or she must be specifically included in your estate plan's will or trust.

Fortunately, that's a straightforward piece of business that can be taken care of by your estate planning attorney. Doing these matters by yourself can lead to mistakes that can cause family pain. For instance, if you write a will yourself and leave your estate to be divided equally between "my children," that would leave your stepchild out.

It makes sense to discuss these matters with an attorney who understands not only applicable law, but also the tax implications of wills and various trusts, and knows how to help you construct an estate plan that will enable your heirs to minimize the financial bite of probate - or even eliminate it entirely.

Contact the law offices of Cantwell & Goldman PA to discuss your options with a lawyer experienced in asset protection.

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