With the divorce rate in Canada exceeding 50% it is common these days for people to be in a new relationship later in life. Often each of them have children from their previous relationships. It is important to understand that when one or both of the parents die stepchildren have no claim at law to the estate of their stepparent.

The typical scenario that happens is that two people live in a common law relationship or get married. Each have children from their previous relationships. One of them dies leaving their entire estate to the survivor and the survivor then dies leaving their estate to their children only. The children of the parent who dies first are the stepchildren of the parent who dies last and they have no legal right to contest the will. They may receive nothing.

One way to remedy this is for people who have blended families to address this specifically in their wills. They may, for example, wish to not leave their entire estate to their spouse but to share it between their spouse and their children.

Another way to address this is if they have life insurance they may wish to designate their children as the beneficiaries of the life insurance and leave other assets such as their home to their new spouse.

Deborah A. Todd