There are many different iterations of what a “family” looks like. If you believe you may be the child of an affair and you know who your other parent is, then you may wonder if you’re entitled to an inheritance at that parent’s death.
If you were raised by your mother with an absent father, then you should ask yourself a few important questions:
- Was your father named on your birth certificate? If not, you may need to establish legal paternity.
- Was your father ever established as your legal parent? If not, you may need to file a notice of appearance in the probate of his estate to claim that you are his child.
- Did your father die intestate (without an estate plan) or did he execute a Will or Trust? If he allocated a share of his estate to you, you could accept it or challenge it. If he died with no written designation of beneficiaries, then the share to which you may be entitled will depend on the nature of other potential beneficiaries such as spouse, parents, and other children.
If your mother had an affair while married to someone who is not your biological father, this can result in a legally complicated scenario because the law presumes that any child born of married partners is their biological child. Making a claim against your biological father’s estate could affect your ability to inherit from the ‘father’ who raised you. Talk to an attorney to determine what is the best approach for you.
If your mother had an affair while in a long-term partnership, and you grew up with your mother and her partner, whom you knew as your father, then you may have only one legally established parent. In this case, unless the paternity of your biological father can be determined, the ‘father’ who raised you would have to name you as a beneficiary in his estate plan for you to receive an inheritance at his death.
How to determine paternity
DNA tests are commonplace these days. If you know of someone who is the legal child of your biological father, a sibling DNA test can be performed to determine if you share a parent. The cost will be a few hundred dollars. Testing sites are available all over the state and the process is relatively straightforward. A DNA confirmation of your paternity is the best tool to establish your claim to your father’s estate.
The issue of paternity and inheritance can be a tricky one. Reach out to an experienced estate planning and probate attorney to help you navigate this emotional issue.