The laws and rights of Step-Parents and Step-Children

July 28, 2022
Dear Clients and Friends:
Second marriages often present issues, like this question:
Under NYS law, can a stepfather be forced to support, provide an inheritance, or transfer one-half of jointly held marital assets (wife has dementia) to adult stepchildren? Both the stepfather and stepchildren have a power of attorney.  I would appreciate your comments as to the law and the rights of both stepparents and stepchildren in general.
Generally speaking, a stepfather does not have to provide support or inheritance for his stepchildren.  Children have few rights, stepchildren, even less. However, a mother has a legal responsibility to support minor children, and diverting her assets by power of attorney away from this responsibility could cause problems. In your question, you tell us that the children are adults so this is not an issue here.
On the other hand, since her children have a power of attorney with you, you may all have to agree on the next steps. It may depend on whether you can act separately or jointly with them, and how fast you act.
However, with joint accounts, you may not need the power of attorney. As a joint owner, you may independently have the right to put assets in your name and leave nothing for your wife’s children.
But is this the right thing to do? Usually not! Even if they are rotten kids. What would your wife want you to do? Do the right thing!
I hope this helps! Please forward this information to your friends and relatives to share these informative answers to some very commonly asked questions.
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Until next time,
peace, health, and happiness,
Lawrence Eric Davidow