“After Acknowledged Children” Denied Inheritance Rights
June 30, 2011
Although acknowledging that the Appellants’ position was “sympathetic”, on June 14, 2011, the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the decision of Surrogate Riordan of Nassau County, denying two children of the decedent the rights accorded after-born children under EPTL 5-3.2. (Matter of Roy Gilmore Sr., 2011 NY Slip Op 05272 [2d Dept 2011]) .
Mr. Gilmore executed a Will in June 1996. He left his entire estate to a daughter, Angela, although he was survived by eleven children.
The Appellants were born prior to the execution of the Will, but the Decedent did not know that the they were his biological children until after the Will was executed in 1996. The proof showed that Decedent, in 2006, learned that Appellants were his children and, in fact, introduced them “as his two children whom he had recently learned of.”
A parent in New York, of course, is under no obligation to leave any part of his estate to his children. However, to address situations where a child is inadvertently left out of a parent’s will because such child was born after the Will’s execution, the Legislature enacted EPTL 5-3.2 which provides that in such a case, after-born children will share with the children provided for in the Will.
Here the children were not after-born, but it was contended that Decedent’s lack of knowledge of the two children who were born prior to the Will, prevented him from benefitting them in his Will. Appellants argued that children born prior to execution of a Will, but only later gaining status as children of a decedent by adoption, are included as children, thus evincing a policy in New York allowing pre-borns to take in some situations. The Court declined to treat these “after acknowledged” children in the same manner as “after adopted” children, relying on the literal language of the statute and saying that if rights are to be given to such so-called “after known children,” which some states have done, this is a matter for the Legislature, not the Courts.