As an unmarried parent in North Carolina, it’s essential to plan your estate carefully to guarantee that your child receives your assets after you pass away. Simply being listed as the child’s parent on the birth certificate does not automatically grant them the right to inheritance. In North Carolina, inheritance rights stem from a child’s legitimization in the eyes of the state. There are currently four ways to legitimate a child, including marrying the mother after the child’s birth, initiating a legitimization proceeding, legally acknowledging yourself as the father, or filing a paternity suit.
Legally Acknowledge Child
To establish a path to inheritance, fathers can legally acknowledge their child by filing an affidavit with the clerk of superior court. However, this process does not legitimize the child. Being listed on the birth certificate as an unmarried father is also insufficient for inheritance purposes.
While marrying the mother after the child’s birth legitimizes the child, it may not be feasible for all unmarried couples. A legitimization proceeding involves filing a verified petition and naming the mother and her spouse as parties if she was married from conception through birth. This option can be complicated and requires a court appearance.
File a Paternity Suit
Another option is to file a paternity suit, which can be initiated by the mother, father, or child. If paternity is established, the child may inherit from the father. However, a paternity suit cannot be used to establish paternity for inheritance purposes if the child is already an adult.
Create an Estate Plan
The most reliable way to ensure your child inherits your assets is to create an estate plan, such as a will or trust, designating your child as the beneficiary. It’s crucial to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create your will and estate plan because even a small clerical error could have severe consequences for your children after you pass away. If you die without a will or trust, your child may be shocked to learn that they will not inherit your assets.
In summary, unmarried parents in North Carolina must follow specific procedures while estate planning to secure inheritance rights for their children. Working with one of NC Planning’s experienced attorneys to create an estate plan can help ensure that your child inherits your assets and is safeguarded from accidental disinheritance.
Estate planning is much more important for unmarried parents than they probably realize. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you are an unmarried parent and you’re ready to get an effective estate plan in place, contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to get the process started with an initial consultation.
If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate plans, please reach out to us at 919-900-4720.
By Attorney Breanna Combs