Are Stepchildren Considered Children in a Will?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Your stepchildren may be as close to you as your biological children, but their legal ties to you are different. When planning your will, you may want to include specific language that identifies your stepchildren by name or specifically includes them. Otherwise, they may not be considered children who can inherit under the terms of your will.

Defining Children

Wills often contain language intended to include all the children -- even those born after a will is made -- of the will maker, who is known as the testator. As such, a testator might state in his will that he is leaving property "to all my children," intending for the will to broadly cover children and stepchildren alike. In actuality, though, this type of language can be confusing because it may not be clear from the will whether the testator intended to include his stepchildren as children. Thus, if you have a blended family, you may wish to clearly define the word "children" in your will, specifically including or excluding your stepchildren. Alternatively, you can include your stepchildren by name in your will, clarifying your wishes.

Status of Stepchildren

Stepchildren are generally not considered to be the legal children of their stepparents. Even a stepchild who lived with his stepparent since infancy and emotionally considers a stepparent to be his parent is not legally considered a child of that parent. Thus, a stepchild generally will not inherit from a stepparent unless the will includes him as a child. State laws can vary, however, so it's best to learn your own state's rules.

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Wills & Rights As a Stepchild

As a stepchild, you do not have the inheritance rights of a biological or adopted child. If your stepparent wants to leave you cash, property or other bequests in a will, he or she must specifically include you in the will. Otherwise, it's possible for you to receive nothing, despite your stepparent's wishes.

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