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What happens when a child is accidentally left out of a will?

As discussed previously in this blog, it is important for St. Paul residents to make sure their wishes are followed after death by setting forth those wishes in an effective estate plan. On occasion, however, questions can arise about the effect of a person's wishes when certain individuals are left out of an estate plan.

For instance, if a person makes an estate plan that fails to name the person's children as beneficiaries, there can be questions about whether the children can receive anything from the parent's estate. If the omission of the child was intentional, the parent's wishes will typically be followed and the child will not receive anything from the estate.

However, if the omission was not intentional, there are ways for the child to receive assets, similar to how a surviving spouse can receive an elective share from a person's estate. For example, the parent may have made a will before the child was born, and simply failed to update it to reflect his or her wishes to include the child in the distribution of assets.

The portion to which the child is entitled will vary depending on the circumstances. If there were no children living at the time the will was executed, the child can receive a share equal to the share the child would have received if the parent had died intestate, unless the will devised all the estate to the other parent.

On the other hand, if there were other children living when the will was executed, the omitted child may have his or her share limited to the devise made to the other children under the will. For example, each child may end up with an equal share.

The bottom line is that children omitted under wills may still be entitled to receive certain assets. The particular assets the child is entitled to will vary from case to case depending on the circumstances.

Source: The Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "524.2-302 Omitted children," accessed on May 1, 2015

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