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How does having stepchildren affect your estate plan?

estate planning May 29, 2019

Each blended family is unique. Maybe your second marriage happened later in life, after your children and your spouse’s children became adults; as a result, maybe you don’t want to include your stepchildren in your Will. On the other hand, you may have a very close relationship with your stepchildren, having raised them as if they were your own. In this case, you may very much want to ensure that they get to share in your estate when you die. 

If you DO want to provide a stepchild with a share of your estate, it is crucial that you make a Will. The current law in Alberta is such that if you die without a will, your stepchildren will have no claim to your estate as they will not fall under the definition of “descendants” set out in the legislation.  The law does not take into account how close you may have been with your stepchildren or how long you were involved in raising them. 

If you don’t have a Will, your stepchildren will get nothing from your estate. This can be particularly devastating to stepchildren if your spouse dies before you do and leaves his or her estate to you – if you then die without a will, the result is that your stepchildren will not have inherited from you or their biological parent.

Blended families are increasingly common and they often make for happy and fulfilling family units.  However, careful communication and common understanding is a key to the success of all families.  Not having a Will, or not being clear in a Will with respect to how each of your children (whether stepchildren or not) should inherit, can cause strife and irreparable harm to the family unit after you are gone. 

Please contact our office if you would like to discuss estate planning for your blended family. Remember, we are here to help!

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