Discovering your ancestry can be fascinating, which explains why at-home DNA tests have become so popular. These kits reveal details about our pasts, and they make great gifts for loved ones. Unfortunately, these tests aren’t always fun for everyone. When a test reveals an unexpected relative or biological child, this may mean some changes and upheavals to an estate plan.
If you do not have an estate plan in the form of either a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, a newly discovered biological child could be entitled to inherit your assets just like your other children. This could spell serious trouble for your known and recognized family after your passing. Unless you’re prepared and you’ve adjusted your estate plan, a person with whom you have no relationship could share an inheritance with your other children.
Even if you do have an estate plan, a newly discovered biological child may be able to claim a share of your assets under the pretermitted heir rules outlined by the laws of your state. A pretermitted heir is someone who has not been specifically mentioned in a Will or Trust. Regardless of being left out, such an “heir” may still be able to demand their legal share under state laws of distribution and descent.
With this twist, genealogy may no longer be a straightforward hobby. If you decide to take a DNA test, be aware of the implications and possible outcomes. We may be used to our medical information staying private, but commercial DNA testing companies are not subject to the privacy laws that hospitals must obey. As soon as you send your DNA off for testing, it becomes part of a database regulated by the company marketing the kit. These companies can volunteer their database for all kinds of unexpected uses. Police, pharmaceutical companies, and app developers turn to them for this kind of data.
Don’t let fear guide your decision-making process but know exactly what you are getting into when taking a commercial DNA test. Even if you are certain you don’t have an unknown child, these tests can still bring surprises and legal consequences. With the proper planning, though, you can rest easy knowing your assets are protected.
If you’ve taken a home DNA test and you’re now concerned about your estate plan, schedule an appointment to meet with us. We can help you formally outline the specific individuals who should inherit your assets and those you wish to disinherit. By avoiding general terms like “children” in your plans and being as specific as possible regarding your wishes, we can eliminate confusion that could result from discovering or being discovered by an unknown biological relative.