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Do unmentioned after-born children have a claim to a parent’s probate estate?

New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys know that it might take an event as monumental as the birth of a first child to get some people to finally come in and prepare a comprehensive estate plan, including but not limited to a last will and testament that names legal guardians for that child in case the parents die before the child reaches majority age.

In such cases, that first-born child is often named as a beneficiary of the estate. But what happens if the parent has additional children born after the will is executed – – children who are not named in the earlier will because they did not exist?

State laws differ, but very often if the after-born children were not specifically disinherited in the language of the last will, the after-born children may have a claim to part of the estate for potentially being accidentally not included. Therefore, it’s important to make it clear in your will–if you intend to disinherit your children – – something you legally can do in virtually every state. A skilled estate planning lawyer can you advise on the best way to disinherit a child to minimize the chances of a successful will contest down the line.

Recently, this very scenario happened in the state of famous director, John Singleton, whose outdated will from 1993 reportedly left everything to his first-born child and left nothing (and did not mention intentions regarding) the six children additional children that were subsequently born. Allegedly, the estate’s probate assets – – those assets that do pass through the will and hence through the court system – – are valued at approximately $3.8 million. However, over $31 million is reportedly “unaccounted for” and is speculated to have been placed in trust.

One of the many benefits of using trusts in estate planning and the one that is very popular with celebrities – – is that trusts are not a matter of public record, do not go through the time and expense of the probate court process, and the transfer of assets to beneficiaries is done more efficiently. So, if he did use the trust, whether he provided for his other six children is something the public may never know.

If you need help with an initial estate plan, or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.