Ask any attorney who’s most likely to initiate legal action over an estate, and they’ll likely tell you that it’s either a stepmother or her stepchildren.
There are some common reasons why these parties tend to find themselves embroiled in heated battles — most of which are tied to unsteady family dynamics.
How common are conflicts in blended families?
Research conducted by NextAvenue shows that only 20% of adult children get along well with their stepmothers. The researchers also found that these relationships often deteriorate with time.
Why do stepmothers get so much of the blame?
NextAvenue’s research also shows that stepmothers often survive longer than their husbands, meaning that they’re usually the ones left behind to battle it out with the spouse’s kids when they pass away. (If men tended to outlive women more, then the dynamics might just as easily involve stepfather and their stepchildren.)
The researchers also discovered how stepchildren and their stepmothers are most apt to contest a will the more inequitable that it appears that an estate asset distribution is going to be.
What fuels quarrels between stepmothers and their stepchildren?
A child’s concern that their stepmother exerted undue influence over their dad often motivates them to contest their will. This situation is quite common if their stepmother and father were married a short time before or the dad had a memory disorder leading up to their death.
Disputes may also arise if a stepmother and their stepchildren have different perspectives on their husband’s or fathers’ burial preferences. A stepmother’s preference for one stepchild versus another can also lead one of the testator’s children to contest the will. A son or daughter may file suit to stake a claim to the portion of the estate that they believe should be theirs.
When can you take action over a disputed estate?
There are several valid reasons to dispute an estate plan or will. An attorney will want to know more about your loved one’s state of mind, general health and relationships leading up to their death before advising you of your right to contest a will here in Massachusetts. If you have doubts, however, speak to an advocate right away because the time you may have to act is very limited.