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    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #1

    Dec 11, 2009, 01:10 PM
    Do step-children have legal rights to step-fathers estate with no will
    My father married a woman with 4 grown children and they were married for 29 years. She died in Jan of 2008 with no will. He passed away in October of 2008. He also left no will. There are 2 children of lineal descent from my dad, me and his son. Now these 'children' have taken us to court saying they have a right to 1/3 of their mothers 'personal estate' and the judge has agreed. The thing is we have given them all of their mothers possessions and they keep asking for more. There is another child, a daughter my dad raised from 18 months to 20 years old also, she hasn't asked for anything but it is my opinion she is more entitled than the ones who were adults when dad married. She is the sister of our heart. She was not adopted as her bio-father wouldn't allow it although he never supported her or left no part of his estate to her. My question is how much do we legally have to give to these children and does the non-adopted sister have any claim at all?
    ebaines's Avatar
    ebaines Posts: 12,129, Reputation: 1307
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    #2

    Dec 11, 2009, 02:28 PM

    The grown children of your step mom are indeed entitled to a portion of their mothers' estate. The specific rules when one dies intestate depend on the state. One possible scenario is this: when your step-mom died intestate in Jan 2008 her estate assets should have been split between her husband (your father) and her children - how much each gets depends on the specific rules of her state of residence. Is this the portion that her children are now demanding? Then when your father died intestate in October 2008 his estate assets would go to his children (not hers). It may get more complicated if he has other relatives still living.

    It's vital that whomever is the executor of your father's estate keep a detailed accounting of all assets that your father had at the time of his death, and how they have been distributed. You should also try to resurrect records of what assets your step-mom had at her death, and how they were distributed. If you haven't done so already you should consider consulting an estate attorney - if nothing else to learn about the specific rules in this case.
    ScottGem's Avatar
    ScottGem Posts: 64,970, Reputation: 6056
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    #3

    Dec 11, 2009, 02:34 PM

    Since neither left a will, the estate should be distributed according to the laws of state where they resided.

    I can never understand why someone askiing a legal question would not think that their general location (state, country, region) would not be of prime importance.

    Since the wife (your step mother) died first, then her estate should have been distributed according to those laws. So first, her estate needs to be processed. Once that is completed, then his estate can processed. Snce the 4th child is not his blood relative ,then she has no part of his estate, but should get a share of the mother's estate.
    cdad's Avatar
    cdad Posts: 12,687, Reputation: 1438
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    #4

    Dec 11, 2009, 02:40 PM

    Also there is a separation that is going to occur if things were held in " joint " because the way most laws read the survivior gets what was joint. So a house held in joint may or may not in most cases be part of the " mothers " estate since she was survived by your father.

    The other girl that is mentioned was she from his wife or someone they took in and cared for ?
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #5

    Dec 11, 2009, 07:00 PM
    Thank you all for your responses... The State of origin is Tennessee.. I believe 2/3 of the mothers estate went to her children in this matter. The 4 step- children are, however demanding things we have never seen or located in the home. That said the other girl child was from the 'fathers 2nd wife's first husband' she was a step daughter to our father from the 2nd marriage because her natural father would not allow the adoption. She resided within the home and had a parent child relationship with our father until she wed and then after that for several years until he married this 3rd wife and she was told to stay away by that same wife.
    Fr_Chuck's Avatar
    Fr_Chuck Posts: 81,272, Reputation: 7690
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    #6

    Dec 11, 2009, 07:34 PM

    Sad that at a death people get so money hungry, I have seen families argue about the money at the funeral home.

    There should be someone over the estates appointed and they have to decide though probate court who gets what.
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #7

    Dec 12, 2009, 09:05 AM

    I think it's even sadder that children think they are entitled to inherit from a parent - the important word being "entitled."

    I also think once a Judge has spoken, as has happened here, the discussion is pretty much over.

    Moral question, perhaps; legal question - asked and answered by the Court.

    Not that this is the case here but questions concerning estates and inheritances have been posted in the past BEFORE the funeral and burial. I have been assigned accidents for investigation BEFORE the funeral and burial - I guess people call the Attorney first and the funeral parlor second. Obviously the earlier I get out "there," the better, but still..
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #8

    Dec 12, 2009, 11:41 AM

    Rather than go back and edit - I can't decide what part of this is most offensive:

    "There is another child, a daughter my dad raised from 18 months to 20 years old also, she hasn't asked for anything but it is my opinion she is more entitled than the ones who were adults when dad married. She is the sister of our heart.

    My question is how much do we legally have to give to these children and does the non-adopted sister have any claim at all?"

    I was - my husband is now deceased - a second wife. This question is offensive.
    ScottGem's Avatar
    ScottGem Posts: 64,970, Reputation: 6056
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    #9

    Dec 12, 2009, 12:57 PM

    TN law states that if a person dies intestate and there are surviving children then 1/3 goes to the spouse and 2/3 to the surviving children. So the 2/3 sounds correct.

    What should have happened is an executor should have been appointed and made an inventory of all assets that are part of the estate. Then the executor makes some sort of distribution.

    If the surviving children believe there are other items, then need to deal with the executor. When your father died, any items in his estate go to his children, not his step children. As for the other daughter, she is not a blood relative so gets nothing.

    If your father wanted to provide for her, he should have made a will.
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #10

    Dec 12, 2009, 02:50 PM

    Was the estate admitted to probate and was it settled prior to the second death?
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #11

    Dec 14, 2009, 12:06 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by ScottGem View Post
    TN law states that if a person dies intestate and there are surviving children then 1/3 goes to the spouse and 2/3 to the surviving children. So the 2/3 sounds correct.

    What should have happened is an executor should have been appointed and made an inventory of all assets that are part of the estate. Then the executor makes some sort of distribution.

    If the surviving children believe there are other items, then need to deal with the executor. When your father died, any items in his estate go to his children, not his step children. As for the other daughter, she is not a blood relative so gets nothing.

    If your father wanted to provide for her, he should have made a will.
    As to the 'other daughter' there is a law in place that states that if the "Parent-child" relationship can be established between witnesses and the party then there is indeed a reason for this daughter to inherit as much as the children of lineal descent,
    As for the other I too was a 2nd wife , however I have now cautioned my ex-husband AND my children to make sure there is a will in place and it is registered with the court. As there is now a 3rd wife involved.

    Greed is a very ugly thing indeed. I have been through several instances of money fever related to my closest family members, my Grandmother , my natural father, and my step-father, and my mother whose step-children took the entire estate because my mom died before her 3rd husband.. Very dysfunctional family.
    This matter seems to be greed pure and simple on the part of the step's... over 90% of their mothers personal possessions have been given to them and still they come back for more..
    ScottGem's Avatar
    ScottGem Posts: 64,970, Reputation: 6056
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    #12

    Dec 14, 2009, 01:09 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by jmarie01 View Post
    As to the 'other daughter' there is a law in place that states that if the "Parent-child" relationship can be established between witnesses and the party then there is indeed a reason for this daughter to inherit as much as the children of lineal descent,
    Can you cite that law? I did some (admittedly brief) research in Tennessee laws of inheritance and didn't see anything like that.

    But even if this is the case, she would seem to only have a claim on your father's estate, not the step mother's.
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #13

    Dec 14, 2009, 02:25 PM

    Would be helpful if my question were answered - was the first estate probated and/or settled?

    Also - I also researched and cannot find such a law. I DO find cases where a person proved by affidavit that an omission from a Will was unintentional and, therefore, inherited but I do not find the step-child law.

    These questions in one form or another are asked fairly frequently and the info would be helpful.
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #14

    Dec 15, 2009, 05:56 PM

    No the first estate was not probated, the step-children of the wife came like vultures the day she died and cleaned out the jewelry box and clothes and knick-knack things...
    I will try and go back through my history regarding the 'parent-child relationship' statute that I was referring to..
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #15

    Dec 15, 2009, 05:59 PM

    Ok here is the site I accessed for the 'Parent -child' info.. Workshop on Defining the Family
    Let me know what you think.. Court again tomorrow..
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #16

    Dec 15, 2009, 06:00 PM

    This is the site... AALS - The Association of American Law Schools
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #17

    Dec 15, 2009, 06:13 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by jmarie01 View Post
    No the first estate was not probated, the step-children of the wife came like vultures the day she died and cleaned out the jewelry box and clothes and knick-knack things...
    I will try and go back through my history regarding the 'parent-child relationship' statute that I was referring to..
    The stepchildren of the wife? I thought she had 4 natural children.
    JudyKayTee's Avatar
    JudyKayTee Posts: 46,505, Reputation: 4600
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    #18

    Dec 15, 2009, 06:13 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by jmarie01 View Post

    I don't see what you referenced - I don't have time to read the entire site. Please cut and paste.

    I do see the portion of this site that refers to CALIFORNIA law and decisions. I do not find the part that you referenced.
    ScottGem's Avatar
    ScottGem Posts: 64,970, Reputation: 6056
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    #19

    Dec 15, 2009, 07:03 PM

    I found this:

    In most states. Current intestacy statutes define “child” as related to the parent by blood or adoption. In several states stepchildren can inherit if the decedent left no other statutory heirs and the estate would otherwise escheat. That is, if the decedent had a surviving niece or a first cousin, that person would inherit and the stepchild would not. Only if no other heir survived would the stepchild take a share of the estate.

    If someone just came in and cleared out the house without probating the estate, then they have no right to claim anything more.
    jmarie01's Avatar
    jmarie01 Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
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    #20

    Dec 15, 2009, 07:05 PM

    Parent and Child Relationship

    (a) An individual is the child of another individual and an individual is the parent of another individual if the person seeking to establish the relationship proves by clear and convincing evidence that a parent-child relationship existed between the two individuals at the time of the decedent’s death.

    The statute creates inheritance rights for both the parent and the child. That is, if the relationship can be proved, than a child can inherit from the parent and the parent can inherit from the child.

    (b) [Factors] Although no single factor or set of factors determines whether a relationship qualifies as a parent-child relationship, the following factors are among those to be considered as positive indications that a parent-child relationship existed:

    (1) The relationship between the parent and child began during the child’s minority. The younger the child, the greater the weight to be given to this factor.

    Unlike the California statute, the proposal does not require that the relationship began when the child was a minor.

    (2) The duration of the relationship was sufficient for the formation of a parent-child bond.

    This factor is closely related to the first factor. The number of years the relationship existed can be a useful indication of the strength of the bond. The statute does not require continuous contact between the parent and child, but a long gap in the relationship could suggest that a parent-child relationship did not exist.

    (3) The decedent was married to or was a committed partner of a biological or adoptive parent of the child.

    This factor assumes that the intestacy statute includes a definition of committed partner or de factor partner based on Professor Waggoner’s proposal.

    Unlike the California statute, the stepparent need not be married to the child’s legal parent for the relationship to qualify as a parent-child relationship under the statute. Marriage by itself can be considered as a factor because it reflects the fact that the parents have decided to formalize the creation of a family. But marriage of the parents should not be required because some parents cannot legally marry and other parents choose not to marry.

    (4) The parent held the child out as his or her child, referring to the child as his or her child or treating the child as his or her child.

    Friends or neighbors who knew the family can provide evidence.

    (5) The parent provided economic and emotional support for the child; the child provided economic and emotional support for the parent.

    This factor resembles the identification of a parent under the in loco parentis doctrine. A court could look to the application of the in loco parentis doctrine in other contexts for assistance in interpreting this factor. Evidence could show financial support, day-to-day care of a young child or an aging parent, or emotional support through daily contact in the home or through frequent visits.

    (6) Treatment of the child by the parent was comparable to the decedent’s treatment of his or her legal children.

    This factor may be of particular use in determining whether a parent-child relationship continued after the child became an adult.

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