Lindsey, my husband recently submitted his DNA to learn more about his ancestry. In the process he discovered he had a daughter he had never known about. How does this affect our estate plan? – Katrina
Katrina, thank you so much for writing. Some websites provide “origin” estimates of your ancestry and can even connect you to unknown relatives using their DNA databases. 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 your estate plan is secure.
First, while these online DNA tests can reveal unknown familial relationships, they can’t prove paternity in a court of law. In Arkansas, paternity tests, at minimum, must be given by a qualified expert the court appoints. That expert must either testify in court about his or her findings or submit a written affidavit with those results. So, your husband’s daughter couldn’t use her current DNA tests as proof of his paternity.
Still, it’s a good idea to change your current estate plans to at least mention his daughter’s name and to specifically disinherit her. If you do not specifically mention a living child in your estate plan, Arkansas law presumes you forgot about them. Such “forgotten” children (pretermitted heirs, in legal terms) may inherit 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 to schedule a free strategy session.