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Lessons in the Law February Report

February 9, 2022

Absentee Parents Can Inherit

The harsh reality is that not every parent is a good parent and not all moms and dads play roles in their children’s lives. The disappointments presented by absentee parents are many when children are alive, but they’re magnified tenfold when those children die at an early age.

I recall a single mom who’d been the only parent her son had known while he was growing up. The boy died in his 20s with no heirs, no will and an estate with modest assets. The father ended up inheriting 50% of the estate, even though he’d never been in the picture. If the son had a will in place, the father could have been excluded.

What happens is that parents are the automatic beneficiaries of children over the age of 18 who don’t have wills. The real tragedy is that the boy’s sister got nothing. No matter what the role a parent plays in a child’s life, assets are automatically split 50-50 between mom and dad. Estranged parents still have rights.

It’s a mistake to think your child doesn’t need a will simply because he or she has no assets. What if the child dies and there’s a malpractice suit? The absentee parent will benefit from any court rulings.
If your child gets sick, you’ll end up having to go to probate court to have yourself appointed as guardian, and the absentee parent will have to be notified.

Parents with children going off to college should carve out the time before those high school graduates hit the road to put a will, financial & healthcare powers of attorney and a living will in place.

Atty. John J. Urban

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