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Paternity and Probate

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

A recent story that I read got me thinking again about the importance of family relationships and how it relates to estate planning. Specifically, I was reading about Diego Maradona, who is a famous soccer player from Argentina. The reason I was reading about Maradona is because he recently died at the age of 60.

Maradona is well known not only because of his skill as a soccer player, but also for some other less reputable reasons. Apparently, Maradona was notorious for his expansive love life. In fact, it’s rumored, both by Maradona himself, and by those close to him that he had been sexually involved with around 8,000 different women during his lifetime.

This is where things get interesting. Before his death, his lawyers acknowledged his paternity of five specific children. Four of them lived in Argentina and one of them lived in Italy. After his death, there have been six other individuals who have come forward also claiming to be children of Maradona. If there is any truth to the rumors about his promiscuity, then it’s possible there could be many more children out there. The reason this is important is because Maradona was worth an estimated $40 million when he died. More importantly, Maradona did not have a written last will and testament, or any estate planning done.

This entire situation creates a nightmare for the estate of Maradona. It will require the establishment of paternity tests for any and all persons who come forward claiming they are a child of Maradona and thereby become an heir to his vast estate. This means the estate will likely spend tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the administration of his estate before a distribution can occur and the estate can be closed.

This situation highlights the importance of having a well-thought-out estate plan completed during your lifetime. I’ve found that most people don’t get their estate planning done because they don’t know how to start. Our goal is to make estate planning as simple and easy for our clients as possible.

We begin with the free Estate Planning Questionnaire which is an easy way to compile your information and get a better understanding of what estate planning is and how it can help you and your family. Once the Questionnaire is completed then we schedule a free 30-minute consultation to answer your specific questions and to help you understand how estate planning can help you and your loved ones.

Paternity and Probate with a Written Will

When a person has a written last will and testament as part of their estate plan, they have the ability to control who will receive the money, property, and other assets from their state after they die. When it comes to children, a parent can leave any gift or no gift for their child at all. In fact, any parent could specifically disinherit a child from their estate by saying so in their written will.

The problem is, what happens when you don’t know you are a parent to a child, so you don’t have them listed in your written last will and testament? Idaho has a statute that covers that very situation.

According to Idaho Code § 15-2-302 “(a) If a testator fails to provide in his will for any of his children born or adopted after the execution of his will, the omitted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which he would have received if the testator had died intestate unless:

  1. it appears from the will that the omission was intentional;
  2. when the will was executed the testator had one (1) or more children and devised substantially all his estate to the other parent of the omitted child; or
  3. the testator provided for the child by transfer outside the will and the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision is shown by statements of the testator or from the amount of the transfer or other evidence.”

In other words, if a child is simply not listed in a written will, then it really depends on whether the parent knew the child existed. If they didn’t know about the child, then that child will still receive a portion of the estate even if they weren’t listed in the Will. If the parent was aware of the child, and didn’t provide for them in the written will, then the statute controls.

Paternity and Probate When No Will Exists

When no written will exists, then the intestate statutes control. These state specifically that living children all inherit equal portions of the estate from their deceased parent. So, in a case like Maradona’s, the only issue is determining paternity. Because of modern technology this is an easy process to complete.

The hard part will be getting notice out to the entire world that people can be tested for paternity purposes to belong to part of Maradona as a state. While I am unsure of the probate process in Argentina, in Idaho, this process would require notice to be given for a certain time period to be established so that interested individuals could be tested to determine whether paternity exists.

It will be interesting to see how the case of Maradona unfolds. Given the size of his estate, it’s likely that there will be many people coming forward claiming to be his children. Because of this, paternity tests will have to be done on every person claiming to be an heir of Maradona before distribution can occur from his estate.

If you have questions or concerns about paternity and how it relates to estate-planning, or if you have questions about your own estate plan, we can help. We have assisted clients with their estate planning for more than 70 years and we are confident that we can answer your questions and help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho estate planning problems.

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