Can a long-lost child inherit your estate? The answer is yes, but only if you do not have a will. Let’s look at an example to understand why that is and learn appropriate strategies for handling this kind of a situation.
Let’s consider a 45-year-old man who finds out that he fathered a child unknowingly when he was a teenager. Now, having been estranged from the daughter for the last 30 years, the young woman suddenly reaches out. Initially, they try to stay in contact, meet and form a relationship, but things go wrong. They don’t get along and they lose touch with one another in spite of the father’s best efforts to reach out and make amends. The question is: Will this young woman have a legal right to her biological father’s estate when he passes away?
Without any other heirs, the father is concerned that if he were to pass away, his estranged daughter would get everything. One issue is that the man’s live-in girlfriend wants to write a will and leave him her home, but she is worried that if she does, his estranged daughter will eventually get it.
According to Florida state intestacy laws — which govern the distribution of estates when no will exists — the daughter will have a legal claim to the man’s assets if he doesn’t create a will. Therefore, it is advisable for this man to draft a will that disinherits his daughter and prevents her from taking his assets when he dies. That said, he does not have to completely disinherit her. He could, for example, leave her a small thing as a token of his relationship to show that he does not harbor any feelings of ill will toward her. As for his girlfriend’s home, another strategy this man might want to consider is to marry his live-in girlfriend so that when she does leave him her home, he will not be hit with exorbitant estate taxes.
Questions like the above are important ones to bring to a Florida estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney will usually be able to provide solid solutions to almost any estate planning dilemma one may encounter.
Source: Market Watch, “Can my 40-year-old long-lost daughter get my estate?,” Quentin Fottrell, Feb. 05, 2016