Skip links

Can Unknown Relatives Contest an Estate?

Reed Bloodworth is the managing partner of Bloodworth Law with offices in Orlando and Winter Haven, Florida.

Bloodworth Law handles probate and trust litigation for plaintiffs and defendants across Florida.

Can Unknown Relatives Contest an Estate?

Can unknown relatives contest an estate? If someone specifies in a will what they want, that will, in most circumstances, will be honored.

Let’s say a grandfather creates a will and he says, “I’m going to leave X amount to my son, and Y amount to my daughter. If either of them should pass away, then their heirs will inherit their portion in equal amounts per stirpes.”

Per stirpes means in whole equal shares in regard to a will or a trust.

But unbeknown to granddad, his daughter had a child out of wedlock. However, that daughter also had another child after getting married the grandfather does know about.

When a Will Doesn’t Include Unknown Relatives

If the will is written in such a way that it doesn’t exclude unknown heirs of the grandfather’s children, then his will has created an interesting situation. Under this scenario, let’s assume Granddad’s daughter predeceases him. Now, the daughter’s living descendants inherit her portion after the grandfather dies.

This grandchild, who was unknown to the grandfather, could claim an interest in Granddad’s estate because he or she is the living blood descendant of her mom, Granddad’s daughter.

If a Relative Dies Without Estate Planning

However, a more likely scenario for this type of situation is when someone dies without estate planning. Then all the decedent’s assets pass via the intestate statute which means you go down the list of living heirs and divide it up pursuant to the statute. That’s the situation where you typically have unknown children claiming an interest in an estate.

They may be unknown to the primary family, but someone may have had a child and not told the rest of the family about it, or even known about for that matter.

You have probably seen this play out with celebrities. There have been multiple celebrities and other wealthy people where this situation has occurred.

A wealthy person had a child out of wedlock,  didn’t tell anybody, didn’t have estate planning, then died.  All of a sudden children pop up and say, “Hey, that was my dad.  I’d like my inheritance now.”

Often in these situations, the person claiming to be a relative will have to take a DNA test, to prove the blood relationship.

Reed Bloodworth is the managing partner of Bloodworth Law.  If you have a probate or trust litigation dispute, call him to talk about how Bloodworth Law can help you or your family.

We Are Open for Business. Law firms are essential & remain open. We work by phone, by e-mail & video conference. We are all here to help you.