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Just exactly who is your “child” or “grandchild”?

These are words we use every day, and of course we know what they mean, Or do we? Suppose your son’s wife has a daughter (“Allison”) from her prior marriage, but your son has raised Allison since she was a… 

toddler, and treats her as his own. Is Allison your granddaughter? Under the law, no. So if your Will or Trust says you are leaving a gift to “your grandchildren”, Allison will not be included. (But if your son adopts Alice, she willbe included as your grandchild under the law.)Or suppose your son has been living with his girlfriend for ten years in a committed relationship, and has raised her 12-year old son, “Brent,” as his own. Is Brent your grandson? No. In fact, Brent is not even a step-grandchild, and does not stand to inherit anything from you or your son, regardless of how close your son (or you) are to him.Now suppose your daughter is in a life-time partnership with another woman, and the partner has a baby (“Chelsea”), which the two of them raise together. Is Chelsea your granddaughter? Under current law, no. Even if your daughter and her partner were married at the time of conception, it is not settled that Chelsea would be considered your daughter’s child.These situations illustrate why, in this age of blended families and non-traditional relationships, it is important to identify in your estate plan who is included and who is not. You can make those decisions, and your estate plan documents should make your decisions clear. If you download a stock form from RocketLawyer or LegalZoom, these issues will not be addressed. You need to see an experienced estate planning attorney who can assess your situation and your wishes, and draft documents that clearly identify the persons who are to benefit from your estate.At Creighton McLean & Shea PLC, we stand ready to help you sort through the unique issues in your family, and give you the peace of mind that your legacy will match your wishes.