Conditions for a Legal Parent-Child Relationship

  • A court has, at any point during the father’s lifetime, issued an order establishing paternity
  • The court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence that the parent “held out the child as [his] own”
  • The court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence of paternity, but the circumstance rendered it “impossible” for the father to acknowledge the child as his own

Establishing the existence of a parent-child relationship, or paternity, can be difficult. However, if paternity is established, the child could be entitled to a significant share of the deceased parent’s estate.

The Risks of an Intestate Succession

A parent has the right to make decisions about their own estate only if they exercise their rights and create an estate plan. Conversely, if a person dies without an estate plan—a will, a revocable living trust, or another such arrangement—they are said to have died intestate. In California, intestate successions are executed in accordance with strict legal procedure.

Intestate Successions Privilege Close Living Relatives

  • Surviving spouses
  • Biological or legally adopted children
  • Surviving parents, siblings, and grandchildren

Under most circumstances, intestate successions do not accommodate the decedent’s known preferences or family characteristics. In intestate probate, the court will award an illegitimate child an inheritance if a parental relationship can be established, and they will deny an illegitimate child an inheritance if a parental relationship cannot be established.

Your Legal Right to Exclude an Illegitimate Child From Your Estate Plan

California presumes that every adult of sound mind has the legal right to make decisions relating to their estate. Under most circumstances, a parent may elect to provide for a child—conceived while the parents are married or born to an unmarried partner—through any conventional estate planning strategy. A parent could provide for a child through:

However, California law does not dictate that a parent leave an inheritance. If a parent wishes to exclude an illegitimate child from their estate plan, they may include specific language stating that the heir has been disinherited, and they should provide a reason—simple or detailed—for doing so.

In the absence of an estate plan, however, illegitimate children could be afforded a greater or lesser share of the estate than their parent had intended.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.