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Poll - Inheritance for Illegitimate Child?

Inheritance for illegitimate child?

  • Nothing - why should another woman's child have a share of what we worked towards together?

    Votes: 19 26.4%
  • Half of what my own children are getting - after all, half of what we have is my husband's, isn't it

    Votes: 12 16.7%
  • A share equal to that of my own children - the child is not responsible for how she came into the wo

    Votes: 29 40.3%
  • Other - I will explain below.

    Votes: 3 4.2%
  • I really don't care - just show me the results, please!

    Votes: 9 12.5%

  • Total voters
    72
  • Poll closed .

Trekkie

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Madam Bijoux's thread on Graff led to an article featuring a short biography on the great man. In it, I learned that he has an illegitimate daughter. This child was conceived while he was married to his wife. They are still married. Immediately I wondered if this child will be getting a slice of the Graff millions...

If you found out your spouse had a child with someone else, but you stayed with them anyway, how would you want your joint wealth divided on your death? And, more importantly, why?

Yes, yes, it's stupid and silly and probably won't ever be an issue in your life, but I'm curious to hear what PSers would do!
 

Pandora II

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No way.

Infidelity might be forgiveable. Infidelity where a child is concieved means that you haven't used protection and so have potentially put my health and life at risk and that is pretty unforgiveable.

The mother can get on and carve her own life a very long way away from mine. Her choice to have the child, up to her to deal with the consequences. If my husband wanted to continue contact with them then the inheritance would be a moot point - he'd have nothing left to leave to anyone. I once dated a guy with a kid and swore never again - I wanted a family that didn't involve the ex endlessly ringing up wanting ££ for ballet lessons etc, every other weekend having to be devoted to the other child. I've always told DH that it is a non-negotiable.

If we were talking about the kind of inheritance Graff will leave then I'd probably be okay with a substantial gift being left to the child - but not of the level of a filial inheritance. If it is the average type of inheritance then no, my child(ren) have the right not to have their inheritance affected by their father's misbehaviour.
 

Jennifer W

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Interesting question. Where I live, it is virtually impossible to entirely disinherit any child, regardless of your marital status at the point of conception. There is statutory provision for the minimum portion which children will inherit (legal rights) and no legal basis for discrimination or recognition of "illegitimacy".

Here, assuming you have moveable assets to leave in the first place, all your children receive an equal share of a portion of your moveable property. . If you are a child of person X, you have the right to the same share of X's estate as any and all other children of X. Heritable property doesn't form part of legal rights, so you can always transfer all your wealth into real estate and leave it all to a favourite child, if you think that's acceptable. Only your assets form your estate, so your spouse's assets will be treated separately- nothing belonging to me could be inherited by my husband's illegitimate child (if he had one, which I'm assuming he does not). That would include my half of any assets owned between us.

How does it work in the US?

eta, thinking about the moral and emotional aspect, how would my child feel about me as a human being if I took any steps to reduce their half-sibling's inheritance? If they became close? If they hated each other? If the sibling lived in extreme poverty / wealth? I don't know the answers, I'm just interested / thinking out loud...
 

Trekkie

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Pandora said:
No way.

Infidelity might be forgiveable. Infidelity where a child is concieved means that you haven't used protection and so have potentially put my health and life at risk and that is pretty unforgiveable.

The mother can get on and carve her own life a very long way away from mine. Her choice to have the child, up to her to deal with the consequences. If my husband wanted to continue contact with them then the inheritance would be a moot point - he'd have nothing left to leave to anyone. I once dated a guy with a kid and swore never again - I wanted a family that didn't involve the ex endlessly ringing up wanting ££ for ballet lessons etc, every other weekend having to be devoted to the other child. I've always told DH that it is a non-negotiable.

If we were talking about the kind of inheritance Graff will leave then I'd probably be okay with a substantial gift being left to the child - but not of the level of a filial inheritance. If it is the average type of inheritance then no, my child(ren) have the right not to have their inheritance affected by their father's misbehaviour.
You know, the bolded part is what upsets me most. The thought of my FI having unprotected sex with someone else makes my skin crawl. I think that must be the worst betrayal of all.

But hey, who knows, maybe "it was just the one time" and "the condom broke"? :rolleyes:

In the Graff situation, it's slightly different. He has been involved with the mother of his illegitimate child for nearly a decade! :-o

You say your children's inheritance should not be "affected by their father's misbehaviour". Out of curiosity, would you feel differently if you were the result of an affair? If you were the child conceived while your father was married to someone else? Would you still feel that child is not entitled to anything?

Not attacking you, merely curious. :)

Jennifer W|1308822511|2952719 said:
Interesting question. Where I live, it is virtually impossible to entirely disinherit any child, regardless of your marital status at the point of conception. There is statutory provision for the minimum portion which children will inherit (legal rights) and no legal basis for discrimination or recognition of "illegitimacy".

Here, assuming you have moveable assets to leave in the first place, all your children receive an equal share of a portion of your moveable property. . If you are a child of person X, you have the right to the same share of X's estate as any and all other children of X. Heritable property doesn't form part of legal rights, so you can always transfer all your wealth into real estate and leave it all to a favourite child, if you think that's acceptable. Only your assets form your estate, so your spouse's assets will be treated separately- nothing belonging to me could be inherited by my husband's illegitimate child (if he had one, which I'm assuming he does not). That would include my half of any assets owned between us.

How does it work in the US?

eta, thinking about the moral and emotional aspect, how would my child feel about me as a human being if I took any steps to reduce their half-sibling's inheritance? If they became close? If they hated each other? If the sibling lived in extreme poverty / wealth? I don't know the answers, I'm just interested / thinking out loud...
The moral aspect is what intrigues me, too. I think it's easy to say, "oh, all my father's children are equal, so we should all receive an equal share of the estate" but who would actually do that? Would the size of the estate have an effect on one's reasoning? Would it make a difference if all the children were well off or poor?

Very probing, personal questions, I know. But I'm curious about how real people would react if they were in this situation.
 

Jennifer W

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It's not only easy to say, it's also inevitable (where I live, anyway). You don't get a choice (unless you do some devious and difficult estate planning). Your children all get an equal share of legal rights. Non negotiable. Even if you leave a Will that attempts to make other arrangements, each child still has the option of claiming legal rights in place of your testamentary provision (but not both).

I think there are two distinct issues here - the impact of infidelity, and careless infidelity at that, on a marriage, and then the issue of how children resulting from that are treated. Legally, they're treated exactly the same when it comes to inheritance, since illegitimacy was removed as a concept from the Statute Books in Scotland.

No child of my husband's can inherit anything that belonged to me though - my child will be the sole heir to my portion of joint assets and any assets in my name. When it comes to inheritance, there isn't really any joint wealth, only the deceased's share of it.
 

Madam Bijoux

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I'll try to keep this short and not babble too much.
Everyone who has children should make a will and list the people who should inherit money and property. Anyone who was left out would have to go to court and fight the will.
If a person dies intestate, a lot depends on where the deceased person was living at the time of death.
In the U.S.A., if a person dies without leaving a will, each state has different laws regarding illegitimate children with inheritance rights. The laws of the state where the person was domiciled at the time of death will apply regardless of what the surviving spouse or the legitimate surviving children want.
If surviving child's benefits are payable by a government agency like Social Security, the agency follows the laws of the state where the deceased person was domiciled at the time of death in deciding whether to pay an illegitimate surviving child.
 

Jennifer W

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Interesting that each state has different laws. Do any of them favour children of a marriage at the time of the testator's death over other children? Do they differentiate between children of previous marriages and children born to unmarried parents?

Are Wills and testamentary writings difficult to challenge? Here, there are some challenges which would have to go through the Courts, but others that are automatically granted (like claiming legal rights as a child of the deceased).

Scots law on Succession is being reviewed at the moment, with a view to simplifying it - I'm watching with interest to see if any of the basic doctrine will change. This is such a fascinating topic!
 

yssie

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Oh, goodness. I have no idea.

I guess... certainly DH and I would no longer be together. I'd probably loathe the child - no, I would loathe the child, and in my anger and pain I don't imagine I'd bother to distinguish between hating the child and hating what the child represents.


That said - not being in that situation and not having kids yet my soapbox is clear for climbing, and from it I can also see that that is horrid of me, as he/she is totally innocent in all of this.. I like the way the Scots handle it - half of what is solely his goes to the other child, that child gets nothing of me and mine, and I can refuse any personal responsibility toward him/her with a clean conscience knowing that the state will deal with the situation fairly.

...I guess? eek.
 

Madam Bijoux

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"Do any of them favour children of a marriage at the time of the testator's death over other children? Do they differentiate between children of previous marriages and children born to unmarried parents?"
Every state's law has different twists and turns, but illegitimate children always have to prove that the deceased man was their father before they can inherit anything. The federal government pays an equal benefit amount to each child regardless of whether the child was legitimate or illegitimate.

Are Wills and testamentary writings difficult to challenge? Here, there are some challenges which would have to go through the Courts, but others that are automatically granted (like claiming legal rights as a child of the deceased).
It is difficult to challenge a will, and people generally have to go to court to do it. An illegitimate child who is contesting a will would have to go to court with proof of paternity (such as a genetic test result or a written acknowledgement of paternity from the deceased) to claim legal rights as a child.
 

Jennifer W

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Oh yes - same here. You'd have to prove you were a child of the deceased before you could inherit. I'm a little rusty on this, but I think all children have to do this if they are named as a class (eg "I bequeath to my children..." rather than naming them each). If the deceased's name is on the child's birth certificate, there is a presumption in favour of them being the father of that child. If not, it can still be demonstrated, but it's obviously more complicated and will likely involve a Court hearing.

yssie, I do like our system, because it's non discriminatory against children with no misdeed on their part, and also because it's un-emotional. You're his kid? You get your share. No further discussion.What the kids get isn't a half though - after any debts and the surviving spouse's prior rights have been paid out , one third of the remainder of the moveable property is divided equally amongst all children (and their successors). In many cases, this won't amount to much at all, particularly when the deceased's main asset was his house or other heritable property.

Houses aren't part of legal rights, so you could leave your house only to children of you and your spouse. If you left it to "my children, Joe Bloggs and Jane Doe..." these two people would inherit your house (or your half of a house in common ownership with a spouse). If you left it to "my children" without naming them, then they'd inherit it in common with any half siblings. If you write a Will with the intention of giving your 'other' child the legal minimum only, you have to be very careful how you word it.

The doctrine here stems from the fact that 'illegitimacy' isn't a concept that is recognised in Scots law. Anything even vaguely ambiguous in a Will will be interpreted to reflect that.

edited for clarity.
 

Pandora II

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Ah, but if my husband was to die before me, I would automatically inherit everything and so when I die it would go to my children and not his - or at least that is how our will and that of our parents are worded. Not sure what the situation would be if I was to die first or both of us at the same time.

I lot also depends on the relationship one's husband has with the child. As I would not be prepared to remain married if he wanted any kind of relationship with the child or it's mother. Even the 15% of income a month I would resent enormously. I find it very doubtful that there would be much for him to leave once my lawyers had finished... sounds horrible but that level of infidelity is not something I could ever forgive.

I'm sure that if you are the child you might have different views and probably are entitled to certain things. But as far as the OP's question goes then I am a lioness when it comes to my own child(ren) and they would come first in everything.

Luckily I probably have more chance of winning the lottery than being in this situation! We're both too lazy to have affairs... :bigsmile:

ETA: My sister discovered last year that she was 7 months pregnant having split up from the ex-bf 6.5 months previously (no, she really didn't know and none of us noticed including my MD father who saw her most weeks - she is 6ft 2" and a bigger build though) and now has a 5 month old baby.

One of Daisy's cousins is also the result of a one night stand and my BIL is a fantastic father to her - he's married to another girl whose former husband walked out on her when their son was 6 months old and BIL and her now have a child together. All very complicated but works well for them. But if BIL was to now go and get some girl KTFU then I would not like to see what SIL would do!

Just wanted to put this in case everyone thinks that I only have experience of nice middle-class nuclear families where 'these things don't happen'.
 

Pandora II

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I checked the English law (Scottish and English law are not the same).

If you die intestate then an illegitimate child could contest for a portion of the estate (they would need to prove paternity if the father is not on the birth certificate). Otherwise you can leave your estate to anyone you please - a cat charity or whatever - and as long as you were of sound mind no-one can do a thing. There is no right to inheritance here (oh, unless you are the government in which case they take 40% of anything over about $300k... :angryfire: hence my family spent an arm and a leg locking everything into trusts etc so they can't get it! :naughty: )

Another thing that can be done is to make a nominal gift to the illegitimate child - ie, the estate goes to your legitimate child but you leave the illegitimate child $1,000 or a painting or something. This shows that the child has been acknowledged and so they can't contest that they were disinherited because of someone forgetting. You should also always name your children rather than just saying things like 'divided equally between my children'.
 

Jennifer W

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Pandora|1308831571|2952802 said:
Ah, but if my husband was to die before me, I would automatically inherit everything and so when I die it would go to my children and not his - or at least that is how our will and that of our parents are worded. Not sure what the situation would be if I was to die first or both of us at the same time.
It's possible that the laws of succession are different in England, but here, even if you leave everything to a spouse, you can't disinherit children completely. A spouse won't be able to inherit everything if a child challenges it, whatever it says in a Will. Children will have legal rights - an equal share of one third of all moveable property. A spouse does have prior rights on an estate, but they are limited. If they don't exhaust the estate, then children can claim legal rights. If you die before him, same thing will apply - you can Will your whole estate to him, but your child can still claim legal rights, at one third of your moveable property.

Common calamity deaths are usually dealt with by inserting a 30 day survivorship clause in a Will, to keep estates separate.

Is it different in England? There are of course ways of defeating the statutory provision. You can put assets in to heritable property, you can put them into various forms of Trust and you can just plain give stuff away to the children you like (but that can be challenged on your death too).

ETA we were posting at the same time re Scots and English doctrine.
 

Jennifer W

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Pandora|1308832381|2952814 said:
I checked the English law (Scottish and English law are not the same).

If you die intestate then an illegitimate child could contest for a portion of the estate (they would need to prove paternity if the father is not on the birth certificate). Otherwise you can leave your estate to anyone you please - a cat charity or whatever - and as long as you were of sound mind no-one can do a thing. There is no right to inheritance here (oh, unless you are the government in which case they take 40% of anything over about $300k... :angryfire: hence my family spent an arm and a leg locking everything into trusts etc so they can't get it! :naughty: )

Another thing that can be done is to make a nominal gift to the illegitimate child - ie, the estate goes to your legitimate child but you leave the illegitimate child $1,000 or a painting or something. This shows that the child has been acknowledged and so they can't contest that they were disinherited because of someone forgetting. You should also always name your children rather than just saying things like 'divided equally between my children'.
That is very different! There are no Legal Rights in England? In Scotland, you can leave your estate to anyone you please, but not all of it. Prior rights (spouse) and then legal rights (children) come out first, like it or lump it. if my father was a) English and b)flighty, I'd find all this rather alarming! :bigsmile:

ETA I should say spouse or civil partner.
Is IHT set at a different threshold in England too? Here, the threshold is £325k Sterling, but you can transfer your allowance to a spouse or civil partner, so you if leave your entire free estate and all heritable assets to your spouse, then the 'second death' will be allowed £650k before being taxed. There is no IHT between spouses in Scotland. I'm woefully ignorant of English law - it took me 5 years to get my head round Scots laws of succession. I find this stuff weirdly fascinating, but somewhat complex. Another fun topic is the difference between the two systems when selling a house... many traps for the unwary in any cross-border transaction!
 

Trekkie

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So many knowledgeable responses! Thank you, Jennifer W and Madam Bijoux.

I also appreciate the very honest responses from everyone else.
 

UnluckyTwin

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Do people really still use such antiquated language as "illegitimate" to describe a child? I think the newer "out-of-wedlock" or "extra-marital" is a much better (less hurtful to the child) phrase to convey the same meaning. To call any human being "illegitimate" just seems terrible to me.
 

Trekkie

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UnluckyTwin|1308835936|2952841 said:
Do people really still use such antiquated language as "illegitimate" to describe a child? I think the newer "out-of-wedlock" or "extra-marital" is a much better (less hurtful to the child) phrase to convey the same meaning. To call any human being "illegitimate" just seems terrible to me.
Actually, "illegitimate" is the polite way of saying "bastard".

I'm illegitimate and the phrase doesn't bother me at all. Somehow "out-of-wedlock" seems very prissy, like something a spinster in a Jane Austen novel would whisper with pursed lips.

I'm still on the fence about "extra marital"!

YMMV.
 

Jennifer W

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Honestly, I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I don't think extra-marital or out of wedlock is much better. Any such term implies a deviation from the acceptable norm. The word 'illegitimate' may not be used, but the notions it conveys are (to me) all still there.

While we can heap all the judgement we're personally comfortable with on people's choices, it doesn't seem appropriate to extend any of that judgement to their children. I don't see a need to have any way of referring to a child's parents' marital status when discussing the child at all. In many legal systems, "illegitimate" was a word that had specific meaning in law, but in places where this is no longer the case, I see the term as a judgement, and a pretty nasty insult. That is how it's used colloquially in a lot of places.

Where there is still a distinction in succession law between children born to married parents and other children, then it's a perfectly valid term, I suppose.
 

kama_s

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I don't think it's fair to punish the child for his/her father's mistakes. I would personally want the child to receive a portion of the father's earnings only - not from the joint income.

That said, a lot of this is so hypothetical. I have no idea how I would react to my husband cheating on me with another woman. I also think I would be swayed by the personaility of the kid. If the kid's a wonderful person, I would be far more lenient and generous.
 

diva rose

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Really hard question because I would not want to stay with someone who cheated on me.

In this case for some crazy reason, I decide to stay married to him ~ inheritance will depend on how involved we are as a couple with the illegitimate child. If we are not involved with the child's life - I won't give him/her anything.
I don't think being related by blood means you are family. Hence if we are not involved, nothing will be given.

If we were involved, inheritance money amount will be based on how close my partner is with the child.
However, no matter how close, the illegitimate child won't be getting as much as my children because he/she is not my responsibility.
 

Jennifer W

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So, and supposing you lived in a legal system which would allow this, your involvement with the child would determine their inheritance?
To play devil's advocate, let me ask why you feel this way? (For the sake of an interesting point in a fascinating discussion, not to give you a hard time over a hypothetical problem - ignore this if you don't want to debate!).

If the child didn't have the benefit of her father's financial support and emotional involvement during her life (and she may have had zero say in that depending on her age when he died) she wouldn't benefit from his estate either, but if she had received support, affection, involvement from her father during his lifetime, she would receive a benefit after his death too?
 

kama_s

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Jennifer W|1308840637|2952903 said:
So, and supposing you lived in a legal system which would allow this, your involvement with the child would determine their inheritance?
To play devil's advocate, let me ask why you feel this way? (For the sake of an interesting point in a fascinating discussion, not to give you a hard time over a hypothetical problem - ignore this if you don't want to debate!).

If the child didn't have the benefit of her father's financial support and emotional involvement during her life (and she may have had zero say in that depending on her age when he died) she wouldn't benefit from his estate either, but if she had received support, affection, involvement from her father during his lifetime, she would receive a benefit after his death too?
I wouldn't agree with it. In most cases, the wife inhibits or puts restrictions on the amount of time, if any, her husband can spend with the other woman/child. I have heard of many situations when the father sees the other child without the wife's knowledge. Ofcourse, it could also be the other woman's choice to not have the father in her kid's life. Either way, this is a decision made my adults that affects primarily the kid. I don't think it's fair that the child is penalized for decisions that were made for him/her.

I truly feel sorry for kids born in this situation.
 

somethingshiny

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It's funny that this question is on here today. In a book I finished last night, a character was killed and left an illegitimate son. In the book, the wife decided to take in the illegitimate child and his mother and care for them both. Obviously, this is fiction but it did get me thinking a lot about the issue.

I think if the father has anything to do with the child in question, that child should receive equal share of the inheritance. If the father has no part of the child's life due to the mother's choices, then a share isn't necessary. But, I think that the wife's portion of savings, retirement, etc should not be part of the distribution. To me, it's as simple as taking responsibility for your actions.
 

VapidLapid

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I dont think children can be illegitimate. Parents, however, are often so.
 

Jennifer W

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VapidLapid|1308842578|2952931 said:
I dont think children can be illegitimate. Parents, however, are often so.
Nicely put.

It's not a term I'm comfortable with, not least because not every loving and committed set of parents chooses to be married (or even has marriage as an option). Just too judgemental for my taste, and not levelled at the people who made the choice being judged, either.
 

AmeliaG

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If I was the wife I would probably feel differently, but as an uninterested observer, I'd say that its not the child's fault what his parents did so if he is the biological child, he should receive his part of the inheritance.
 

TooPatient

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NOT my opinion. I will just share the legal information for where I live. (in other words, don't blame me this is what the law says):

The will determines everything. Being a community property state, you can only deal with your half of the community property.

As far as children (young or grown), you don't have to leave them a penny. There is NO requirement that any portion of any assets go to any child. There is a pretty standard paragraph that can be added in to wills here that basically says "I have X, Y, Z children. They have been provided for already during my life and will not inherit. Any other children that I am not aware of and are not listed here will not inherit." -- You don't have to add this paragraph, but it does make it extra clear.


Also, in a community state (there are a fair number of them) when you establish the beneficiaries on your retirment account (IRA) if you name ANYONE other than your spouse as your sole beneficiary (so husband/wife gets 100%) then the spouse MUST sign acknowledging this. (I don't know what happens if they refuse?)



Okay....
Now my opinion.
Husband & wife are team. They work together to build their life. When one or the other dies, everything they have worked for together should go to the other. Money. House. EVERYTHING. It should be up to the surviving spouse to determine which child/children get what items and/or money and when. The surviving spouse will be the best judge of when a child/children is ready to receive something (like maybe they are taking the death super hard and don't want anything around for awhile or are about to move and can't carry a bunch of stuff with them or are in a bad place in life (like drug addict) where handing them a pile of money would cause them harm).

When we talked before doing our wills, FI was a bit concerned that I said my mother gets a bunch of stuff because even if I was dead he'd still need it (dinnerware, furniture, etc) ------ Which is absolutely true! (and why I set mine up (as did he) that if one of us survives the other gets everything but if both of us died then certain things would go to certain people)
 

NovemberBride

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I have to say, I am shocked by the number of PS'ers who say they would want their husband to have nothing to do with a child born as the result of an extra-marital affair. While I don't know what I would do in this situation (I'd like to say I'd leave, but real life is much less black and white), I would not condition my staying on my husband having nothing to do with his child. In fact, it is just the opposite. I would not want to be married to a man that would want nothing to do with a child he fathered. I would never be with a man who had children that he did not take care of both financially and emotionally. A man who can just walk away from a child is not a man I would want anything to do with, let alone love. If this happened in my marriage, we would have a lot bigger issues than who inherits our estate. That said, I think the right thing to do is for the child to get an equal share of the husband's share of the estate.
 

NovemberBride

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Also, if the child is a minor, the estate can be required to make child support payments before any money is distributed to the other heirs. This varies greatly by state, but if the father died with an estate of $1 million that he left to his wife but he had monthly child support payments of $1000, the court can order that the estate continue to make those payments, even if the will did not provide for that. The courts put the best interest of minor children above all else in the US. To me, that is as it should be. There is no circumstance in which a child should be denied support because of the actions of its parents.
 

TooPatient

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NovemberBride|1308846166|2952968 said:
Also, if the child is a minor, the estate can be required to make child support payments before any money is distributed to the other heirs. This varies greatly by state, but if the father died with an estate of $1 million that he left to his wife but he had monthly child support payments of $1000, the court can order that the estate continue to make those payments, even if the will did not provide for that. The courts put the best interest of minor children above all else in the US. To me, that is as it should be. There is no circumstance in which a child should be denied support because of the actions of its parents.
I forgot this part!

That is true in this state (WA) also. Child support and other obligations (as support can end, but there may be college expenses) up to the age of 22.

It can be a lump sum paid upon death (can be done through a life insurance policy) or it can be set up in the will so that a trust is set up with enough to cover the obligations and then continue to pay out monthly (or as the expenses come up).
 
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