Many Americans think of “illegitimate children” as an old-fashioned concept, especially when it comes to estate planning. After all, children born outside of a traditional marriage has become commonplace worldwide. As of 2014, over 40% of all children born in the United States were born outside of a traditional marriage. Unfortunately for all those children, the law has not kept up with the times.

Dangers of Poor Estate Plans: Overlooking the Details

Often when someone with children creates an estate plan, they want everything to pass onto their children after they pass away. The law, however, may not define children in the way they intend. Many wills and trusts prepared online or through an inexperienced attorney do not address these issues. It is important you have an attorney discuss with you how you want to define “children.”

Which Categories are “Your Children?”

People have different values and opinoins. Would the following categories qualify as your heirs for purposes of your estate plan?

  • children/grandchildren adopted by your heirs
  • children/grandchildren who come into the family through marriage
  • spouses and ex-spouses of your children/grandchildren

How Would You Handle These Scenarios?

Here are few examples to see how the categories above could play out in your family. Do you want your estate to be passed on in the following scenarios?

  • Your daughter adopts a little girl. Is she your heir?
  • Your grandson marries someone with children from a prior marriage. He is not the father and he does not adopt the children. The children maintain a relationship with their father. Are those children your heirs?
  • Your granddaughter receives her inheritance from you and puts it a joint checking account with her husband. Sometime later, he divorces her. Will the inheritance stay in the family?