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Paternity and inheritance: why it is important

Unmarried fathers in Florida face more complicated questions of how to pass on inheritances and benefits to their Lee County children than married fathers since they may not know how the law will regard their biological children. The law could deny children of unmarried fathers certain inheritance rights and benefits if the father does not establish paternity or the courts do not recognize the father as the children's legal father before the father passes away.

According to Florida statute 732.108, children that are born out of wedlock and do not have an established father are considered descendants of the mother’s family. For a child to be recognized as part of his or her father’s family, the father must acknowledge paternity in writing, or a court must establish a father’s paternity during the father’s lifetime or after his death, or the parents of the child must have engaged in a ceremony that tried to establish marriage but the ceremony was rendered void for a particular reason. If any of these three conditions are met, the child is recognized as part of the father’s family.

Recognizing paternity not only entitles the father’s children to inherit his assets if he dies without a will, but according to Findlaw, the children will also be eligible for a number of other benefits and rights. If the father has group insurance, his policy can cover his children. If the father is suddenly disabled as a result of disease or an accident, Social Security can provide benefits to his children as well as the disability benefits the father would receive.

Established paternity can also entitle a child to other benefits beyond inheritance rights in the instance of the father's death. Social Security can pay out benefits to a child if the father passes away. Additionally, in the event a father is killed as a result of a negligent act, his lawfully recognized child or children have grounds to receive wrongful death compensation from the party that caused the death of the father.

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