Family situations in New York can come in many shapes and sizes. Most are not neat, simple cases in which there are parents and marital children. There are divorces, remarriages, children with different parents, stepchildren, adopted children and more. While this is often handled deftly by the families, it can be a complicated circumstance when a parent dies and their estate is set to be divided and distributed to heirs. Understanding how a non-marital child will be factored in when the inheritance and personal property of the parent is doled out is critical to avoid conflict.

A non-marital child who is a legitimate child of the mother can inherit from her and the mother’s relatives. A non-marital child who is a legitimate child of the father can inherit from the father and the father’s relatives in the following instances: if the court made an order determining paternity or there was an acknowledgement of paternity between the mother and father and it was filed in the appropriate district; or the father signed to acknowledge paternity.

For the signing of the acknowledgement, the following must be in place: it was done in the proper form with one or more witnesses and the witnesses acknowledged that fact, or it was in front of a notary public other officer; it was filed within 60 days from it being formulated with the father’s registry established; and, within seven days of it being filed, the mother or a legal guardian was sent a notice via registered mail from the department of social services to acknowledge paternity. This can also be done if there is evidence that is clear and convincing regarding paternity.

If there is an agreement that obligates the father to provide support to the child is not a guarantee of inheritance without establishment of paternity in any of the above ways. Should the non-marital child die, a surviving spouse and other blood relatives of that non-marital child will be entitled to receive letters of administration just like if he or she had been a marital child.

Complicated situations such as a non-marital child who might be entitled to take part in the distribution of assets after the death of a parent are difficult to navigate. Having a basic grasp of the law is one part of it, but having expert advice from a law firm that specializes in estate administration and its accompanying issues is even more vital. This is the first call that should be made to deal with these difficult circumstances.