Families today are ever-increasingly “blended”, with children from prior relationships joining together in a new family of “step” relationships (step-sisters and step-brothers, step-children, step-parents, etc).  Sometimes these blended families merge seamlessly, with the “step” relationships quickly becoming irrelevant as all involved think of themselves as “real” parents, children, brothers and sisters.  Other times, the union is not so smooth. This can become an issue in estate law when a person dies, leaving behind a blended family that includes both “real” and step-grandchildren.  If that person’s Will only names “my grandchildren”, are the step-grandchildren included?  The answer will depend on all the circumstances of the case.  A Judge will be required to look at the family circumstances in order to determine the true intention of the deceased person in using the word “grandchildren” while not specifically including or excluding “step-grandchildren”. One such case was decided in 2011 in British Columbia (Re: Lang Estate).  In that case, the step-grandchildren were found not to be included, an obvious disappointment to them – both financially and perhaps emotionally as well if they had always thought of themselves as being viewed the same as the deceased’s “real grandchildren”. More than anything, cases like this are a cautionary tale to both clients and lawyers – to be thorough in exploring the details of the testator’s family and to be sure clear and unequivocal language is included in the Will so as to avoid costly and hurtful legal disputes.

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