Marvin (Michael) Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf, passed away at the age of seventy-four with a net worth estimated at $40M. He was survived by his second wife, Deborah, and two daughters from his first marriage, Pearl and Amanda. Pearl, his stepdaughter, was adopted by Meat Loaf when she was a young child. The actor/singer’s estate was not probated which means that he must have had an excellent estate planning attorney and avoided probate with the use of trusts.
So, what can we learn from this Bat Out of Hell?
We can discuss biological, adopted and stepchildren. As we can expect, children have strong inheritance rights (after a surviving spouse) under Florida succession law when there is no last will or trust designating the estate beneficiaries. When the statutes discuss “children” the assumption is that they are the decedent’s own biological children. However, legally adopted children have intestate inheritance rights in an ADOPTIVE PARENT’s estate equal to the parent’s natural children. But a child who has been adopted does not have intestate inheritance rights in their BIOLOGICAL PARENTS’ estates. This makes sense, you may only inherit from one set of parents at a time. Once adopted, the child may only inherit from their adoptive parents and the biological parents’ intestate inheritance is no longer available unless special provisions are included in the biological parents’ last will or trust.
Unlike formally adopted children, stepchildren do not have any intestate inheritance rights (unless they have been legally adopted). Should a stepparent want to leave an inheritance to a stepchild who was not legally adopted, they must make special provisions in the will, trust, or beneficiary designation forms (remember, the beneficiary designation form is only if the child is over the age of 18, we wouldn’t want to leave a minor assets directly).
So there you have it, when there is no last will or trust, the law steps in and adopted children are treated the same as biological children, but the law does not include stepchildren; a step child must have special provisions as part of an estate plan to inherit from a step-parent.
We also learn that with proper estate planning, like Meat Loaf’s plan, we can almost always keep our biological, adopted and stepchildren out of the probate court.
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