Monday, June 6, 2011

What am I to my stepchildren now that my husband has died?

You marry the man who doesn’t want to have children with you; he already has children from a previous marriage. Sometimes his children live with you; sometimes you have partial custody or visitation, but they are definitely part of your life now.

Maybe it’s a close and wonderful relationship in which the word “step” disappears. Or maybe it’s a mess, and you can barely be in the same room with each other. For most of us, it’s somewhere in-between. You inevitably connect because you have their father in common. They grow up, they marry, they have children, and you become a step-parent-in-law and step-grandmother. Again, you may be close or distant, but there is a connection.

Then the worst happens, and your husband, their father, dies. Regular readers know that I’m living this reality right now, but let’s stay hypothetical for a minute. Your husband, the link to those children, is gone. You all grieve the loss, but now the question arises and sits out there like a hippopotamus in the front yard. What is your relationship now?

A web search turns up lots of legalities, mostly concerns about custody and inheritance. In both cases, let’s hope you’ve got something in writing. If you and your husband had custody of his children, and somebody wants to take the kids away from you, that’s a big issue that I’m not going to address here. Better find a good attorney.

When it comes to his estate, what happens if his wishes are not stated in his will depends on where you live. In some states, his kids are entitled to half of what he owned, and you get the other half. I don’t know about you, but giving up 50 percent would leave me homeless and bankrupt. In some places, as his spouse, you get it all, but it varies and you should know what the law says. You should also both have wills, even if you're young and healthy.

You should also know that in most states, stepchildren are not your legal heirs. When you die, they will not automatically receive anything from your estate unless you specifically leave it to them in your will.

So, if they’re not your legal heirs, we come back to what is your relationship now? I’m reminded of an aunt by marriage who has been widowed for several years. No one ever considered that she was no longer a member of the family when my uncle died. Of course, her kids are blood relatives . . .

It’s different with stepparents. We don’t share one drop of blood. Our only familial link is our spouse, and when he’s gone, then what? I guess it depends on what kind of relationship you’ve established over the years. If you have developed a close-knit family, you will remain in each other’s lives. If not, you may drift apart. In my case, we’ll see, but I fear it’s going to be the latter.

I’d like to offer some resources, but I find everything for stepparents is either legalities or young stepmothers complaining about their young stepchildren and their evil biological mothers. I’m not finding anything for older spouses with grown stepchildren. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions on the subject. And of course, if you’re a childless stepfather, just reverse the genders and the same questions apply to you, too.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I googled and found this blog post from 2011. I am going throught a heart wrenching time because my stepdaughters told me I would still be Nana to the grandchildren, but no one vared to ask me if I had plans for Easter and today I find the oldest grandchild is graduationg high school today and I have not been invited. Very hurtful. I will send my granddaughter a graduation card and gift card, but I will no longer expect or even hope for an invitation to anything.


Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anonymous June 5, I am so sorry. It is hurtful. My story is pretty similar. To lose the stepkids on top of everything else just doesn't seem fair. Here's a big virtual hug. ((((()))))

Anonymous said...

For me the problems started as soon as my wifw died. She was older than me and imwas widowed at 55. That leavesmher two sons that we had supported since we married in 1983. As of today 6/17 I have not spoken to one boy since august of 2013, I have given him money, helped them everytime they needed help but still only get grief in return. The oldest boy will hit his kids if they mention my name, or desire to come see me. For me I am at a point in my kife if they dont want me in their lives so be it .

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Oh Anonymous June 17, I'm sorry. I'm sorry you lost your wife and sorry that her sons are not supporting you. You may have to let them go, at least for now. Maybe later they'll grow up and realize how much you have done for them.
I feel for you.

Marilynn said...

One of my deceased husband's sons is so selfish now that they own the house. He's threatened law enforcement because I told him I had guests and he wouldn't be able to start inventory. But thank God, my life is not contingent on him being understanding.

Anonymous said...

Let go and let GOD. When you know you have treated people kindly, you can sleep at. They are the ones with the issue.

Anonymous said...

I dealing with this right now. My stepson is very conflicted in how it deals with me. He feels he has loyalties to him mum and her sister. He puts me last. I had to walk move out after his dad died as he was obnoxious and his aunty would not call him to order. I was expected to absorb everyone's bad behaviour. He said he wanted to stay in touch but each time I meet him his arms are crossed over his chest and he can't bear to hear anything about my life. I organises his rememberances for his father with his aunty. I am coming to the conclusion of saying 'Look you know where I am if you need to talk, ask questions or get an opionon and if something you want done we can work out each individual matter as it arises.

For my peace of mind and his. It is a great loss but I have to accept my life is not with him. I believe he will return as a friend maybe in years to come.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anonymous March 5, This makes me so sad. This is pretty much how it turned out with my stepchildren, too. I was just looking at some old photos and remembering when we felt like a family. I think you're right about letting it go, letting him come to you when he feels moved to do so. I'm sorry.

Unknown said...

I am a grown stepchild. My father passed away 2 years ago. I asked for his ashes to bury at the cemetery when she was ready. Instead she opened the box and had half the ashes put in a new marble urn for herself. She then placed the rest back in the original wooden urn. And put the wooden urn into a storage unit. She said she refused to let me bury the ashes because she thought I would not talk to her anymore after I got the ashes.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Wow, unknown, that's rough. But I'm feeling guilty because I never asked my stepchildren about their Father's ashes. I put them in the mausoleum next to his parents. Maybe I screwed up? It's so hard at such times to know what to do. Wife and kids both have equal claim.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Wow, unknown, that's rough. But I'm feeling guilty because I never asked my stepchildren about their Father's ashes. I put them in the mausoleum next to his parents. Maybe I screwed up? It's so hard at such times to know what to do. Wife and kids both have equal claim.

KC said...

When my husband passed I had one large urn for myself and small urns for each stepchild along with a picture of their father which both were handed to them at the funeral. I have an ongoing great relationship with my stepson but not the stepdaughters (as it was when my husband was alive). As the youngest, my stepson spend a great deal of time with us growing up and I believe that is why we have the close relationship.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

KC,
I thought at first the urns were for you and the stepkids to be buried in! They had their father's ashes, right? Very sweet. I hope you all continue to get along.

Anonymous said...

I lost my husband 16 months ago when I was 42. My step kids were 19 and 15. Both of them still live with me. I was fortunate enough that their mother lives out of state and gave me guardianship of the younger one I feel we will always have a relationship and I will be a grandma to their kids one day. The special time such as graduation marriages and births will be bittersweet but my step daughter said that when I'm there she feels like her dad is there too.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anon May 14, thank you for your commitment. It gives me so much hope.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

I mean comment.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I'm lucky, so to say in this aspect, my husband was killed in a car accident 3years ago next month and he has 2 boys from previous marriage,they were only 11&12 when their dad passed away, I still see them daily, their mom and I have known each other since elementary school and live very close by. Our once 11yro's are now 14& heading into high school and are playing on the football team together.I love those boys as they are my own.they refer to me as their step-mom and come over and hang out and introduce their friends to me and we all go to each others kids B-Day parties. Even though I miss their dad daily I'm grateful his,my,boys are still in my life and love me๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anonymous June 6, it is so wonderful that your boys are still close to you and can support you in the wake of your husband's death. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

My husband died, we had no kids together he had two from a previous marriage, his ex wife, is trying to stop grad kids from seeing me telling them I not there grand mother I have been in their life from day one, I losses my husband and them too, they say I owe them part of life insurance money, it was in my name only we where marred 20 years. I am done with them. Get my life back.

Cheech Smith said...

I found this blog by way of googling, "husband died stepchildren no longer see me".

I was curious if this was common, as I am the adult stepchild of my fathers wife. I've seen adult children end contact with their fathers for ending the relationship with their mother and moving on in marriage with another women. I never understood why someone could hold animosity towards the step parent in these conditions.

My situation is much different. My dad was an attorney who was a high functioning alcoholic. He was having an affair with a women 16 years younger than he was who was also an alcoholic. Her life changed dramatically after she married my dad. As far as I'm concerned their relationship was one of lust on my dads part and one of financial security on hers. She came into the relationship with a respect me or fear me attitude. All she does is badmouth him now a days. When my dad is no longer in the picture (complicated heart problems brought about by his alcoholism), neither will I, but I will likely remain in contact with the child they had together.