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Estate Planning In Massachusetts: Guide To Stepchildren


Many people are part of blended families. Pew Research Center estimates that 40 percent of U.S. adults have at least one “step relationship”—it could be a stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, or any combination. For those in step-families, there are major estate planning implications. It is crucial that you have the right strategy in place to protect your family, achieve your goals, and avoid conflicts. Here, our Boston-area estate planning attorney provides a guide to the key things to know about planning for stepchildren as part of your estate plan.

Know the Law: No Intestate Succession Rights for Stepchildren Without Adoption 

First and foremost, it is crucial that you understand how intestate succession works in Massachusetts. Intestate succession is the process by which estate assets are distributed when no Will. Here is the key thing to know: Stepchildren do not automatically inherit from a stepparent’s estate unless they have been legally adopted. Although a parent’s children— biological or adopted—have inheritance rights under Massachusetts intestacy laws, stepchildren lack rights.

A Stepchild Must Be Proactively Included Within an Estate Plan 

If a person lacks an estate plan, their non-adopted stepchild has no direct legal right to inheritance through intestate succession—even if they had a strong and well-developed parent/child relationship. Legal adoption is required to create those rights.

With that being said, a stepchild can absolutely be named as an heir—even a primary heir—to an estate. To ensure that stepchildren are considered in the distribution of your estate, they must be explicitly included in the estate planning documents. There are several options, including:

  • Naming a stepchild in Will;
  • Setting up a trust with a stepchild beneficiary; and
  • Naming a child as a designated beneficiary on a life insurance

Communication is Key: Avoid Conflicts By Getting On the Same Page 

For blended families, communication is one of the keys to effective estate planning. Serious disputes can arise if everyone is not on the same page. When there are stepchildren in the picture, proactive communication is especially important. Here are tips for fostering clear, constructive conversations:

    • Start Early: Begin discussions about estate plans well before they are actually Doing so gives everyone ample time to express their views and concerns.
  • Be Clear and Honest: Clearly explain your estate planning choices and the reasons behind Openness helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • Encourage Questions: Allow stepchildren to ask questions and express their An open dialogue can alleviate any feelings of uncertainty or exclusion.
  • Seek Professional Help: An experienced Massachusetts estate planning lawyer can review your situation and help you set up the best plan for your family.

Contact Our Boston Estate Planning Lawyer for a Confidential Consultation 

At Fisher Law LLC, our Boston- area estate plan attorneys are skilled, experienced advocates for people and families. If you have any questions about planning for stepchildren as part of your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact our estate planning firm today for a confidential consultation. We provide estate planning services in the Greater Boston area.



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