Lindsey, my husband recently submitted his DNA to learn more about his ancestry. In the process, he discovered he had a daughter he never knew about. How does this affect our estate plan? – Katrina
Katrina, thank you so much for writing. Websites like AncestryDNA and 23andMe.com promise to provide “origin” estimates of your ancestry and can even connect you to unknown relatives using their DNA databases, but, as you’ve discovered, these test results can have life-altering consequences. Don’t despair, however, with the proper planning and right attorney on your team, you can still make sure that your estate plan is secure.
First, while these online DNA tests can reveal unknown familial relationships, these tests alone cannot prove paternity in a court of law. In Arkansas, paternity tests, at minimum, must be given by a qualified expert appointed by the court and that expert must either testify in court as to his or her findings or submit a written affidavit with their results. Accordingly, your husband’s daughter couldn’t use their current DNA tests as proof of his paternity.
However, it is still a good idea to amend your current estate plans to at least mention his daughter’s name and state that she is specifically disinherited. This is because if you do not specifically mention a living child in your estate plan, Arkansas law presumes that you forgot about them. Arkansas law calls this a pretermitted heir, and pretermitted heirs or “forgotten children” are entitled to inherit what is called an intestate share from your estate.
This is the share they would have received if you didn’t have an estate plan at all! Need more information about this or other issues that could affect your estate plan? Check out our website at www.ElrodFirm.com or call us today for