Stepchildren’s Rights in Will Variation
Under The Wills, Estates and Succession Act, stepchildren are not able to vary a will in British Columbia. But does this mean that stepchildren have no rights? The modern family is often blended, so now more than ever, many families are wondering whether or not there is any legal room for them. Klein Lawyers explains stepchildren’s rights in will variation.
The Modern Family
It is estimated that 45% of people have been married more than once and of those people, more than half are parents. Knowing this, there are millions of children who are stepchildren and step-grandchildren in British Columbia, yet, the law does not make way for their inheritance rights should a will be contested.
However, this does not mean that stepchildren cannot be given inheritance. If a testator specifically names his or her stepchildren within the will, they will be granted assets. This also applies to step-grandchildren. It is imperative though that testators do not use vague language like “my children” to assume that the stepchild is accounted for. In most cases, only biological and adoptive children will have inheritance rights.
But, updates to the Wills, Estate and Succession Act have made some provisions for stepchildren.
If I Adopt My Stepchild, Are They Entitled to Inheritance?
We know that biological and adoptive children are entitled to inheritance in British Columbia. But what if a stepparent adopts the stepchild or children–are they then entitled to inheritance?
Yes, if a blended family exists and the stepparents want to formally adopt the stepchild or stepchildren, those children are then entitled to inheritance and can undergo the wills variation process should it need to occur.
Knowing this, it is important to be very explicit in the will about the distribution of assets to biological, adoptive, and stepchildren, should the formal adoption process not occur.
While this is complicated enough, let’s pretend the formal adoption does not occur. Then, in this blended family, the couple combines their assets. When one parent dies, the estate becomes mixed. Does this mean that the children and stepchildren have no rights? It all comes down to timing. In these cases where one spouse spends or gifts the deceased’s assets, the children may be better off contesting the will before her death, so they receive their biological parents’ assets and the stepparent does not. But again, this becomes complicated, especially if the will is vague.
Stepchildren and Inheritance: British Columbia Wills Variation
Blended families are now typical in most countries. Yet stepchildren are often left out of the will either intentionally or accidentally. A vague will can lead to hardship for loved ones, which is why it’s imperative to handle these matters before it’s too late.
However, if you are the stepchild of a recently lost loved one and have questions about your rights, contact the British Columbia wills variation lawyers of Klein Lawyers, LLP for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our wills variation lawyers serve clients throughout British Columbia from offices in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, and Surrey.