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Handling Estranged Children

Sometimes parents and children become estranged and no longer stay in contact. How these children should be handled in the parents' estate plans, depends on the situation and state laws.

For whatever reason, parents and their children do not always get along. They no longer talk to each other and may not even know anything about one another. In short, they may become estranged.


The woman's brother had a child 30 years earlier. The brother had cut off all contact with the child's mother, when she was under the age of one. The child was later adopted by her stepfather. In his trust, the brother did not mention the daughter by name. However, he used a general disclaimer that he did not want any unnamed relatives to receive anything.

The letter writer wanted to know if this daughter was really disinherited or if she could make a claim against the brother's estate.

In this case, the answer was an easy one. When the daughter was adopted by someone else, any legal relation between the biological father and the daughter terminated. The daughter cannot claim to be a relative for estate law purposes. In cases where a child has not been adopted by someone else, the answer depends on state law. Some states assume that any child not specifically mentioned and disinherited in an estate plan, were left out as the result of a mistake.

Contact an estate planning attorney, if you have questions about estranged children and estate law in your state.

Reference: Napa Valley Register (March 15, 2018) "Is daughter really disinherited?"

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