After three decades on the air, Maury Povich is retiring. Daytime television will never be the same with nobody regularly revealing “You are (or are not) the father!” However, the popularity of at-home DNA tests from companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe means people are getting this same kind of shocking information about their own families.
The Palmer & Slay team knows of several families who have needed to update their estate plans after getting DNA test results. We have also gotten some questions from Brandon, Mississippi area folks about using DNA testing to challenge the distribution of assets after a loved one’s death.
New Branches On The Family Tree Thwart Careful Planning
A common problem in the estate planning world is documents that are drafted too broadly.
Consider the example of a will that leaves your estate to your children, without naming them. Under Mississippi law, a biological child that is born after the document is executed, or a child that is adopted at a later date would be considered an heir, out of fairness.
Someone who finds out they too are a child of the deceased person through DNA testing could theoretically challenge the will and claim a share too. It is not as cut and dried as a newborn or adopted child joining the family, but since this is a developing issue it should be considered a possibility.
It is best to name heirs instead of leaving assets to a class of people. These documents should then be updated every few years to make sure the right people are named in them.
Additional Challenges For Those Who Die Without A Will
When someone dies without an estate plan in place, Mississippi law decides who their assets go to. These laws of intestacy rely on legal connections like marriage and adoption, and blood relationships. Anyone who can prove he or she is in the class of people legally entitled to inherit can come forward to claim their share. This includes people who only find out they are related through DNA testing.
It generally does not matter if the family or person who passed away did not know the person who comes forward existed. It likely will not matter if the person who passed away knew or suspected they had a nonmarital child and did not want them included in their estate plan. The law relies on legal and blood relations, not the deceased person’s wishes.
Preserving Your Wealth. Protecting Your Loved Ones.
The information above is obviously very general. It should not be considered legal advice. If this topic is something you want to know more about, please consider this blog post an invitation to contact our office and set up a meeting. Your particular situation may be quite different from the general information above, so it is important to speak with an experienced attorney if you have questions about DNA testing and estate planning.