Under Texas law, the parent-child relationship extends to every child, whether the parents were married or not. If a person dies without a will, the estate passes to the person’s descendants according to the laws of intestate distribution. For inheritance purposes, the law does not differentiate between descendants based on their parents’ marital status.
For obvious reasons, it’s rare for motherhood to be the topic of dispute. More often, the problem lies in proving the parent-child relationship between a deceased father and a surviving child or descendants of the child.
How can paternity be established in probate court?
The Texas Probate Code defers to the Texas Family Code for ways in which paternity can be established for inheritance purposes. Under the Family Code, paternity may be presumed if one of these conditions exists:
- The father executes a voluntary statement of paternity pursuant to Family Code provisions or to similar provisions in another state and the acknowledgment has not been revoked
- The relationship is established by a paternity suit and court order under Family Code provisions
- The father adopted the child
- The father consented to assisted reproduction which resulted in the birth of the child
- The relationship is presumed under Fam. 151.002(a), which explains the rights of a living child after an abortion or premature birth
A properly executed statement of paternity by the father is not merely evidence to support paternity, but is conclusive for purposes of establishing the right to inherit by the child or the child’s descendants.
What if none of the presumptions apply?
If the father-child relationship can’t be established under one of the presumptions listed above, the child or the child’s descendant can petition the probate court for a determination of inheritance rights. If the court finds clear and convincing evidence to support a claim that the purported father was the biological father of the child, the child is treated as any other child of the decedent.
Does it work the other way around?
In rare cases, a person claims to be the parent of an illegitimate child in order to receive an inheritance from the child’s estate. However, the Texas Probate Code doesn’t provide a mechanism for a person claiming to be a biological father to petition the probate court for the right to inherit from the deceased child, unless the father-child relationship is presumed or otherwise established under Family Code proceedings.
Arrange a consultation for more information
Call for a meeting to learn more about resolving paternity and inheritance issues. Our experienced Brazos estate planning and probate attorneys at Peterson Law Group analyze your situation and explain how the law applies to you. Contact Peterson Law Group today at 979-703-7014, or visit us online to set up an appointment.