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Parents, children and inheritance rights

Children have no legal right to inherit anything

Children have no legal right to inherit anything from their parents. Credit: iStock

I'm the firstborn child of my father, who is terminally ill. My aunts and uncles have convinced him to make me remove my belongings from his house, changed the locks on the door and excluded me even from medical information. My father is divorced from my mother and his second wife, and estranged from his children from his second marriage. What are my rights now, and when he passes?

 

Sadly, you have no inherent legal right to see him or to know about his medical condition. Your rights after his death depend on whether he leaves a will.

If he dies unmarried and "intestate" (without a will), the law divides all his assets equally among his surviving children. (Their birth order is irrelevant.) But if he leaves a will, it doesn't have to provide for his children. You can't disinherit your spouse; but you're not legally required to leave anything to your children.

As people who would inherit if he died intestate, you and your half-siblings are entitled to challenge his will in probate court. But to overturn it, you must prove that it was improperly executed (he didn't sign it, for example) or that he didn't understand what he was doing or that he acted under duress or undue influence. (You could argue undue influence if your aunts and uncles lied about you, for example, saying you didn't care enough to visit him.)

Bear in mind that being an uncaring parent or a poor judge of character isn't evidence of mental incompetence, and it doesn't take much alertness to sign a will. If he knew what he was doing and wanted to do it, his will is valid, however unfair.

THE BOTTOM LINE Children have no legal right to inherit anything from their parents.

WEBSITES WITH MORE INFORMATION nwsdy.li/intestacylaw and nwsdy.li/contestingawill

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

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