How can my step children inherit from me in my will?

Q: In Family section of my Will I have included both my children and my step children and called them all “my children. Is it permissible in Pennsylvania to include both natural children and step children as children in my will without being specific. My intent is to treat them all equally.

A: In PA, they may not be legally considered “children” unless adopted unless paternity was established putatively (by your actions as raising them from birth as your own). However, the beauty of a will is that you have the complete discretion to choose the persons who will inherit from you, regardless of their biological relation. If you spell their names out in the will that would accomplish what you want. If you would die without a will (intestate), then inheritance of children is based on bloodlines established by the PA intestate succession statue. If there is the potential for any riff between your natural children and step children, make sure that your will is secured and protected so that it can be probated when you die. If your children would resent that your step children should inherit from you, they could destroy your will so it would not be probated and intestate law would be followed which may cause the step children to be excluded as heirs.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.