Child Support

Father Forfeits His Intestacy Share of Child’s Estate Due To His Failure To Support The Child

In the estate law, estate litigation and family law case of Estate of Stevenson, PICS Case No. 14-0752 (C.P. Philadelphia, Feb. 20, 2014) the Honorable Joseph O’Keefe ruled that a father forfeited his share of his child’s estate due to his failure to support his child and his willful neglect of his duty as a parent.

Mother and administratrix of deceased daughter’s estate filed a motion to approve a wrongful death and survival action naming herself as the only beneficiary of the decedent’s estate. The decedent’s father filed an answer alleging that he was also a beneficiary. The court granted the mother’s motion and the father appealed. The court granted mother’s wrongful death/survival action motion.

Mother asserted that father was ineligible to receive a share of the child’s estate due to forfeiture. Under 20 Pa.C.S.A. 2106(b)(1), which prevents someone who has failed to live up to his of her responsibilities as a parent from gaining a windfall from the child’s death. At a hearing the parties stipulated that the decedent was a minor and that the father owed a duty to support her. Father admitted that he had failed to provide any support to the child in the last year of her life. He claimed he had not seen her since she was three months old. While he claimed to have bought the child a crib, playpen and diapers, these were not provided during the last year of the child’s life and were thus, immaterial.

Father alleged that his failure to support the child was not willful because the mother told him the child was not his, even though she also told him the child was his. The father gave no compelling reason to believe he was not the child’s father and admitted he made no attempts to determine the child’s paternity. The court found that the father’s failure to take any steps to find out if the child he claimed he cared for was actually his was willful neglect of his duty as a parent.

The father ceded any responsibility throughout the child’s life and his looking to benefit after the child’s death was the exact type of windfall the forfeiture statute was designed to prevent. Father was not entitled to a share of the child’s estate.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, (May 20, 2014)

Filed Under: Estate Law; Estate Administration; Family Law; Forfeiture Statute

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