Is an illegitimate child entitled to a share in their deceased father’s estate?

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Is an illegitimate child entitled to a share in their deceased father’s estate?

My biological father just passed. He has 3 children from his marriage. I was conceived through an affair while he was married. He stayed married; his wife died earlier. I am 51 and living in Canada. Am I entitled to any of the estate?

Asked on October 14, 2012 under Estate Planning, Connecticut

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

This depends on whether your biological father engaged in any "estate planning."  He may have placed ownership of his assets in the joint name of one or more persons, or he may have named one or more persons as beneficiaries on assets.  If he did this, those assets will pass to the joint owner or beneficiary outside any estate.  If you are not named, you will have no interest in the asset.

If your biological father created a trust and took actions to title or transfer his assets into a trust, then the assets would pass according to the trust agreement.  If you are not named in the trust agreement, you will have no right to a distribution.  If your biological father had a will, then everything not directed to a person or the trust will pass according to the terms of the will.  If you are named in the will, you will receive the distribution listed there.  If you are not named, you are not entitled to any distribution.

If your biological father did none of the planning steps listed above, you may be entitled to some portion of his "estate," i.e., his assets that exceed his debts.  If your biological father died "intestate" (without a will), most states divide assets equally among children if there is no spouse.  Florida follows this procedure.  Illegitimate children are entitled to inherit so long as they can establish paternity.

I suggest you contact the probate court in the state and county where your father passed away and find out if a will has been filed or an estate opened.  If not, you should contact a probate or estate attorney in that area to see what he or she recommends to find out if your father left an estate worth probating.  In Florida, potential heirs can file a "caveat" which is a document that puts the court and the estate on notice that you are an "interested person" under Florida law and entitled to notice if an estate is opened.  Other states probably have similar procedures.

I hope this answers your question.


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