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Dying Without A Will Hurts Everyone

In December, 2009, Kerry Kelly passed away without a will. He left behind his former wife whom he had divorced before his death as well as his daughter, Shauna, who had been born while the couple were still married.

He also left behind his sister Pam and his mother who suffered from dementia.

Under these circumstances the law is very clear; since he died without a will his daughter Shauna would receive her father's entire estate.

But hold on. Kerry's sister Pam claimed that Shauna was not Kerry's daughter at all!

On the surface, Shauna appeared to be his legitimate daughter; she was born in wedlock. Moreover, Kerry was listed as Shauna's father on the Statement of Live Birth. Under those circumstances, even the law presumed Shauna was Kerry's legal daughter. What more would you need? And how in the world could you ever prove that Shauna was not Kerry's daughter?

According to court documents filed by Pam, (Kerry's sister), her deceased brother never recognized Shauna during his lifetime as his biological daughter. Pam also claimed that after the marriage ended, Kerry paid little child support and rarely visited with Shauna. As for the Statement of Live Birth for Shauna...her father never signed it!

And so, as is always the case, the court was faced with two differing sides to the same story. If Shauna was the biological daughter, then Kerry's estate would go to Shauna. DNA testing, of course, could resolve the whole issue. If the DNA testing proved no match, then the estate would go for the benefit of his mother who resided at a long-term care facility.

Pam asked the court to settle the matter by ordering Shauna to undergo DNA testing. Remarkably, a DNA sample of Mr. Kelly had been obtained before he was laid to rest.

The Judge reviewed the law and in the end ordered Shauna to provide the necessary bodily samples required to complete DNA testing.

In the end, although the results of the DNA testing are unknown, the public estate records show that the estate did go to Mr. Kelly's Mother and not to whom we all thought was his daughter.

Lessons to be learned? If Mr. Kelly had met with a lawyer, provided information and prepared a will, the whole matter could have been avoided.

The Ross Firm has experience in all aspects of estate work, from preparing simple and complex wills to creating more sophisticated trusts, to acting on behalf of estate trustees or challenging the validity of wills.

Give us a call.

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