Inheritance rights of non-marital children under the NY estate law: Estate of Charles Rogers

Inheritance rights of non-marital children under the NY estate law: Estate of Charles Rogers

As a NY estate lawyer with over two decades of NY estate litigation experience, some of the most heartbreaking cases involve the inheritance rights of non-marital children.  Normally when someone dies without a NY will, also known as intestacy, the person’s NY estate goes to their next of kin.  Ordinarily, if their next of kin were marital issue, children of a marriage, their children are easily recognized by the Court as the legitimate and rightful heirs entitled to inherit.  However, if children of the deceased were born outside of marriage, also known as non-marital, the children often bear a heavy burden of establishing their inheritance rights within the NY estate law by clear and convincing evidence. 

While marital children benefit from something called the marital presumption of legitimacy, non-marital children do not. The marital presumption of validity has the legal effect you would expect it to.  In the eyes of the NY estate law it presumes that any child born within a marriage is the offspring of their wedded parents.  However, unlike marital children, non-marital children receive no such presumption.

Perhaps the biggest misconception non-marital children have regarding their inheritance rights pursuant to NY estate law regards their birth certificate.  Just because their father’s name appears on their birth certificate these claimants wrongfully assume they will be deemed the paternal child of that decedent. This is not so.  For non-marital children to establish their standing after April 28, 2010, EPTL 4-1.2, as amended in 2010, of the NY estate law, it states, among other things, that a non-marital child may inherit from his or her father and paternal kindred, if paternity was established during the decedent’s lifetime or “paternity has been established by clear and convincing evidence, which may include, but is not limited to: (i) evidence derived from a genetic marker test, OR(ii) evidence that the father openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own.  To establish an open and notorious acknowledgment of paternity, there is no requirement that the putative father disclose paternity to all his friends and relatives. An acknowledgment of paternity in the community in which the child lives is sufficient. 

Unfortunately, dna material of the decedent is not always available for genetic marker testing.  In such cases, a NY estate lawyer must establish the non-marital child’s paternity through other means, namely open and notorious acknowledgment. Pursuant to NY estate law there are several ways to establish open and notorious acknowledgement of paternity by statute, including but not limited to the obtaining of an order of filiation or the executing and filing of a document in substantial conformity with Public Health Law §4135-b.  Thus these statutory provisions within the NY estate law enable a NY estate lawyer to establish paternity by open and notorious means in the absence of dna evidence on behalf of non-marital children. 

While the NY estate law has come a long way towards the acceptance and inclusion of non-marital children and their inheritance rights there is still much work to be done.  Historically, non-marital children were labeled illegitimate and were forced to prove their status as distributees by both open and notorious means as well as through genetic marker testing.  This became problematic if the biological offspring of their parent did not have much of a relationship with their father.  As stated above, on April 28thof 2010, the NY estate law empowered such heirs with the choice of establishing their paternal inheritance rights through either prong of the NY estate law, no longer stigmatizing such claimants as illegitimate heirs but non-marital.  As a NY estate lawyer I sleep better knowing there are multiple avenues afforded to non-marital children under the NY estate law to assert their rights to inherit from their fathers’ estates.   

Estate of Charles Rogers

Sixty-two year old, Charles Rogers died in August of 2018, of a drug overdose in his car outside his home on his $63 million estate. Reclusive aristocrat Charles Rogers died an heir to one of the wealthiest families in the world.  Rogers died without a will and had neither married nor had children.  As such the Estate of Charles Rogers was set to go to the state.  However, Charles Rogers did have one alleged 31 year old son whom he had neither acknowledged during his lifetime nor engaged in any paternity testing. The alleged heir to the nearly $100 million dollar estate of Charles Rogers, Jordan Adlard, is the son of Julie Adlard.  Julie raised Jordan in poverty within miles of the 1,500 acre estate of Charles Rogers and had always claimed that Rogers was Jordan’s father. Julie Adlard recounted that at 20 years old she met Rogers at a local bar in their town.  Julie claims that Rogers was the first man she had ever been with and that her son Jordan was born nine months after the chance encounter. 

While Jordan reached out to Charles Rogers at several points in his life requesting dna testing for paternity, Rogers consistently refused.  Each time Jordan Adlard attempted to initiate contact with his alleged father, he was rebuffed.  After so many years Jordan gave up.  When Jordan Adlard learned of the death of Charles Rogers he again reached out but this time to Rogers’s lawyer for his estate requesting paternity testing.  As fate would have it Jordan Adlard tested positive as the sole surviving heir of Charles Rogers and distributee of his $100 million dollar estate.  Jordan Adlard now presides over the 1,500 acre estate and his nearly $100 million dollar inheritance.  

Proving paternity for purposes of asserting inheritance rights pursuant to the NY estate law can be challenging but is not insurmountable.  With the help of experienced NY estate lawyers who practice exclusively in this arena of litigation it can be done.  Feel free to call the NY estate litigation lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444.   Our Queens estate lawyers have more than 60 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.

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