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The spouse generally has a life estate to protect her regardless of the wishes of the Will and intestate proceedings (No Will). Unfortunately, children of decedents are only protected in intestate proceedings and not when a Will does not include them. However, you can contest a Will under several grounds such as mistake or undue influence.
An illegitimate child (one born out of wedlock) can inherit from his or her natural mother and vice versa when either dies without a will. By contrast, the illegitimate child cannot inherit from the natural father or the father’s family members who die without a will, except upon the occurrence of one of certain specified events, including:
- The father consents in writing to be named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate.
- Paternity is established in a paternity suit brought generally before the child’s twentieth birthday.
- The father legally adopts the child.
- The father voluntarily signs a written notarized statement of paternity acknowledging that the child is his.
After the child’s birth, the father marries the biological mother and either signs a written acknowledgment of paternity, consents to be named and is named as the child’s father on the birth certificate, or is obligated under a written voluntary promise or by court order to support the child.
After the father’s death, the probate court determines that the father was the child’s biological father.
This means that even if a father maintains ties with his illegitimate child, that child will not inherit from him if he dies without a will, except under limited circumstances such as those discussed above.
The stepchild does not inherit from a stepparent who dies without a will because he or she is not considered to be legally related to that stepparent. This is unfortunate where the stepchild was raised by a natural parent and/or a stepparent. A stepchild can inherit from a stepparent who dies without a will only if the stepparent adopted the stepchild or if the stepchild proves in court the existence of a written or oral agreement to adopt which was not executed. This latter method often is used when foster parents do not adopt a child even though they had an agreement with the natural parent(s) that they would adopt.
Children of the Half-Blood
Half-blood children share the same natural mother or father, but not the same two natural parents. A half-blood child inherits only half as much as a whole blood child. For example, if a decedent’s only heirs are a half-blood brother or sister and a whole blood brother or sister, the half-blood heir takes one-third of the estate and the whole blood heir takes two-thirds.
After-Born or After-Adopted Children
After-born or after-adopted children are children who are born to or adopted by a person after he or she executed a will in which such children were not provided for or mentioned at all. After-born or after-adopted children in this situation inherit only under limited circumstances, so it is best to execute a new will or an amendment to the existing will to provide for the after-born or after-adopted children.
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