You ask an important question because the question is about much more than semantics. Whether a child has been purposefully omitted from a parent’s will or a child was pretermitted from a parent’s will, it can have a significant impact on what the child may inherit when the parent dies.
Let’s Consider the Definitions of The Terms Omitted and Pretermitted
The law defines these terms as follows:
- Children who are purposefully omitted from their parent’s will. As the term suggests, a child who is purposefully omitted from a parent’s will is a child whom the parent: (a) knew about at the time that the will was made; and (b) decided to exclude from the will. Parents have a right to do this so long as the decision is theirs alone and not the result of undue influence from other children or other parties.
- Children who are pretermitted from their parent’s will. A child who is pretermitted from a parent’s will is a child who was not yet born or adopted when the will was drafted and executed. Additionally, the child was not provided for in the will with a general clause that covers children who are not yet born or adopted into the family. For these children, there is no evidence that the parent purposefully excluded them from the will, but rather the evidence suggests that the parent simply did not yet know about the child when the will was made.
Either of these scenarios may present legal issues when an estate is administered and it is important for the executor of the estate to understand the differences and to seek to protect the wishes of the person who wrote the will. Children who were purposefully omitted from the will by a parent who was of sound mind and not unduly influenced by others may not have a legally valid claim against the estate. However, children who were wrongfully omitted from the will or pretermitted from the will may be able to share in the distribution of the estate.
Are You Responsible for Administering the Estate?
If you are the executor of an estate where there are children who are not included in the will, then it is important for you to make sure that you are following the letter of the law and that the children’s legal rights, as well as the decedent’s legal rights, are protected. To learn more, start a free online chat with us today or fill out our contact form to have us contact you directly. We can help you figure out what the law requires you to do before any child, or other interested party, claims that the estate was improperly administered or that you violated your fiduciary duty to the estate.