You web browser may not be properly supported. To use this site and all its features we recommend using the latest versions of Chrome, Safari or Firefox

With high rates of divorce and re-marriage in recent times, today’s modern family is often a blend of step-parents and their stepchildren.

While these relationships are usually strong and loving, sometimes they can be strained and adversarial – often leading to questions about legal rights to inheritance.

Previously, stepchildren – unlike biological children, adopted children and grandchildren – had no inheritance rights.

However, new laws recently introduced in Western Australia – one of the last Australian states to have such a provision – mean that step children can now challenge a will if they feel it doesn’t adequately provide for their needs, like housing or education.

What is the definition of a stepchild?

The Family Provision Act 1972 defines a stepchild as a child of the deceased's spouse or de facto partner. They must have been living at the date on which the deceased married the spouse, or entered into that de facto relationship.

Under what circumstances can a stepchild make a claim?

There are two scenarios under which a stepchild is able to make a claim. Firstly, the stepchild must have been wholly or partly maintained by the deceased immediately before the deceased's death.

The second scenario is if the deceased received or was entitled to receive property from the estate of a parent of the stepchild (other than as a creditor) provided the value of the property at the time of the parent’s death is greater than $460,000.

What should step-parents consider when preparing their will?

If a step-parent dies and hasn’t made adequate provision for their stepchildren in the will, the stepchildren can make a claim against the estate. The court has the discretion to override any gifts to others under the will to provide for these stepchildren.

The new legislation means that in the event of a claim, the courts will look at what happens when the step-parent passes-away and not when the will was made.

With these new laws in place, step-parents should make sure they have an up-to-date legal will which takes into account that stepchildren can now challenge a will if they don't feel it sufficiently provides for them.

The more that people are aware of these changes and make the appropriate provisions, the less heartache and legal battles there will be later on.

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

Thank you for your feedback.

Related blog posts

Estate Planning
Bob Hawke’s daughter challenges will for larger piece of his estate

Just two months after former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke passed away, it has been revealed his daughter is preparing to sue his second wife over her share of the will. According to media reports this week, Mr Hawke left each of his children $750,000 through his will. But it is also alleged he left the rest of his estate to his second wife. Now, Mr Hawke’s daughter is gearing up for a legal battle to claim a share of her father’s estate. While everyone has a right to make a will leaving their estate to whomever they chose, wills may be challenged once a person has passed away. This legal option is made available generally to family members to ensure that those in need of...

Gettyimages 72381782 Resized Blog
Estate Planning
Avoiding 'Cat Fights' in Estate Litigation

With Karl Lagerfeld’s cat set to inherit a fortune, we are reminded of the need to be cautious to avoid “cat fights” in estate litigation. When the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s death broke, thoughts soon turned to the artistic designer’s beloved cat, Choupette. Choupette is said to have two personal maids, be fed from silver dishes and enjoy a luxurious grooming regime. It comes with no surprise that Lagerfeld described Choupette as a "rich girl" and "heiress" in interviews. While the contents of Lagerfeld’s Will has not yet been revealed to the public, Vogue estimates that the estate is worth over $380 million. It has been rumored for a number of years that Choupette is set to...

Rich Cat Resized For Blog
Estate Planning
Do you need Testamentary Discretionary Trusts? The what, why, who, how

What is the best way to provide for your partner, spouse, children or loved ones when you die? The answer may be a Testamentary Discretionary Trust (TDT). TDTs can offer significant advantages for beneficiaries and can last for generations. Trusts are a structure for management and distribution of assets. There are four main roles in a trust, including the: A Testamentary Discretionary Trust is a trust set up by your Will. TDTs are a valuable estate planning tool used to maximise flexibility, protect beneficiaries and minimise tax implications. They are especially useful where you have a vulnerable beneficiary who has a disability, is at risk of financial stressors such as a family...

Signing Contractblog

We're here to help. Make an enquiry now.

If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, make an enquiry now and our Wills team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Call us on 1800 444 141