Special rules apply to inheritance by “non-marital” children, previously known as “children born out of wedlock,” when it comes to establishing the child’s right to inherit. Under New York’s Estates Powers & Trusts Law (EPTL) §4-1.2, a non-marital child is the legitimate child of his mother and may, therefore, inherit from his mother; however, a non-marital child may inherit from his father only if one of the following conditions is satisfied:
- During the lifetime of the father, paternity was established by an Order of Filiation.
- The mother and father executed and filed an acknowledgment of paternity pursuant to Public Health Law §4135-b.
- The father of the child signed an instrument acknowledging paternity (subject to further conditions).
- Paternity has been established by clear and convincing evidence.
How do you establish paternity by clear and convincing evidence? Such evidence may include but is not limited to:
- Evidence from a genetic marker test (DNA)
- Evidence that the father “openly and notoriously” acknowledged the child as his own
What does “evidence that the father openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own” mean? It’s a question of fact that looks at numerous factors including but not limited to:
- Whether the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate
- Whether he supported the child
- Whether he lived with or visited the child
- Whether he sent cards or gifts on birthdays/holidays
- Whether he claimed the child as a dependent on his taxes
- Whether he participated in school activities
- Whether he told people that he was the child’s father
Typically, such evidence is presented to the Surrogate by way of an affidavit of a disinterested party – someone who does not stand to inherit from the estate – along with exhibits of documentary evidence.