Recently, somebody visited this website after conducting a search for “disinherit stepkids.” Hopefully, that person comes back so that I can tell them that, at least in Colorado (with a couple of limited exceptions), their stepkids aren’t their heirs, and you can’t disinherit someone who isn’t an heir to begin with. Doing so is like marching into an office and quitting a job you don’t have.
Defining some terms might help clarify what the issues are here. The first question is, who are your heirs? A lot of people think that the term “heirs” is synonymous with “kids.” It isn’t. Your heirs are the people who would receive all or part of your assets if you were to die without a will. That will include your natural and adopted kids if you’ve got them, but can include a lot of other people as well.
Although you will frequently talk about their heirs in the present tense, technically, you don’t have any heirs until you die, and the people who would be your heirs will likely change throughout your life. If you are 22 and single when you die, your parents will likely be your heirs. If you are married at the time of your death, your spouse will be an heir. If you die without any spouse, kids, or parents, your brothers and sisters, or their kids, can be your heirs.
Who gets to challenge your will?
Before creating a will, it’s important to understand who your heirs will likely be. If the will that you are executing would provide less for any particular people than those people would have received had you not executed the will, they might be able to challenge your will in court. People who would not have been entitled to receive anything anyway are not allowed to challenge your will (they lack “standing” to bring a lawsuit since they wouldn’t have anything at stake).
Under Colorado statutory law, your stepkids will not receive any part of your estate if you die without a will. They therefore will not have any basis to challenge your will, even if it cuts them out entirely. Compared to leaving out people who would have been entitled to part of your estate under Colorado statutory law, leaving nothing to your stepkids is usually simply a matter of not mentioning them in your will.
You can give people standing
One caveat to keep in mind, however, is that you can give people standing to challenge your will who wouldn’t have been able to do it. You can do this by putting a valid will in place that names them as beneficiaries. For instance, let’s say you have two kids of your own and two stepkids. You create a will that divides your estate among the four kids equally. Later on, you have second thoughts and decide that you only want to leave assets to your own kids, and so you execute a new will saying that. When you die, your stepkids might be able to challenge that second will because if they succeed at getting it revoked, the previously executed will that named them as beneficiaries might replace it. They now have something at stake, and therefore have standing to challenge the will.
If you have stepkids, you may have special estate planning issues that you need to take into consideration. Please visit my estate planning process page to learn how I might be able to help you.