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Can a “Deadbeat” Parent Inherit from the Neglected Child?

At Hays Firm, we recognize that an individual’s family does not always include those people who are defined as “family” under the law. We have helped many families of all shapes and sizes navigate the probate process after the death of a loved one. In two recent cases, we have invoked a rarely used procedure, asking the court to declare a biological parent “ineligible” to inherit from his or her deceased child, even though that biological parent is truly an heir under Illinois law.

How and why would a person ever want to prevent a parent from inheriting from his or her child? If a parent was not involved in the care and upbringing of the child, that parent may be declared “ineligible” to receive an inheritance from the child. In our complex world of family and relationships, the parent-child emotional relationship is sometimes never established.

In one circumstance our firm recently represented the mother of a young man, aged 19. The young man was injured in a horrific and tragic accident. The young man suffered severely mentally and physically as a result of the accident. Unfortunately, after the accident, the young man was injured at a rehabilitation facility that was supposed to be helping him. His mother successfully sued the facility in several years later the young man died.

It was necessary to open a probate estate for the young man to distribute his remaining assets. However, a problem arose because the young man’s only heirs under Illinois law were his mother and his father. On the Affidavit of Heirship, the biological father was identified.

Unfortunately, this man had not seen his biological father since he was a boy, and his father had played no role in his life. It seemed unjust to give half of this young man’s estate to his absentee biological father, when it was his mother that had loved and cared for him. Fortunately for this family, Illinois law protects a decedent’s estate from having to pay an inheritance to an absentee parent.

Keep in mind that the Illinois law applies to men and women equally. Mothers and fathers need to acknowledge the decedent as their child during the child’s lifetime, establish a parental relationship with the child, and support the child to be eligible to receive any portion of their child’s estate.

Chicago Asset Litigation Attorneys You Can Trust

While we hope that none of the readers of this article find themselves in the painful circumstances of finding a parent “ineligible”, we at Hays Firm are here to help. Knowledge of all your rights under the Illinois Probate Act is essential to protecting your interests if any probate-related issue arises. Feel free to contact us anytime for assistance.