Do You Know Who Your Children Are? How the Connecticut Parentage Act Affects Estate Planning

By Alan S. Parker and Danielle A. Erickson

The changing landscape of American families has resulted in new laws that expand who may be considered your child or grandchild. A recent Connecticut law, known as The Connecticut Parentage Act (the “Act”), may impact your estate plan by expanding who may be deemed to be a child or grandchild of yours for inheritance purposes.

The Act provides new ways of establishing a parent-child relationship beyond the traditional biological connection between a parent and a child or parentage established through adoption. This new law will generally apply to you and your estate plan unless you have taken steps within your estate planning documents to specify who can be considered your child or other descendants.  This is especially important for anyone who is part of a dynamic, less traditional, family.

The Act outlines three different types of parents that a child can have in addition to or in lieu of a genetic parent: (1) an “intended parent,” (2) a “presumed parent,” and (3) a “de facto parent.”

An intended parent is specific to situations involving assisted reproduction or surrogacy and refers to the person or persons who intend to be a parent of the child conceived through technological assistance. With an intended parent, the legal parent-child relationship generally begins when the child is born.

A presumed parent is someone who is married to the birth parent during pregnancy or at the time of the child’s birth. A presumed parent can also be someone who lives with the child and the birth parent and holds themselves out to be that child’s parent for at least two years or from the time the child was born. With a presumed parent, the legal parent-child relationship may be established at any time.

A de facto parent is someone who functions as a parent to the child for a significant period of time and has formed a parent-child relationship with the child. With a de facto parent, the legal parent-child relationship must be established before the child turns eighteen and while the parent and the child are alive.

For each of these types of parents, the legal parent-child relationship is generally established through court adjudication or a written acknowledgment of parentage form. An acknowledgment of parentage form is a signed document in which an individual declares that they are the parent of a certain child. A properly executed acknowledgment of parentage form has the same force and effect of a court ordered judgment of parentage.

If one of these parent-child relationships is established, this may have important implications on your succession and estate planning. A “child” has the right to inherit under intestate succession if you do not have a will, has the right to contest a will, and may unintentionally be included in the definition of “issue” under your will and trust documents. However, you can shape the definition of who are considered your children and descendants under your estate plan in any way that you wish.  As a start, think about your answers to the following questions:

  • How would you like to treat non-biological children and other descendants?
    • Does the treatment change depending on whether the child is legally adopted or if the parent-child relationship is established by an acknowledgment of parent form?
    • Does the treatment change depending on whether the parent-child relationship was created before or after the child turned eighteen?
  • How should a child be treated if the parents are not married at the time of birth?
    • Does this change if the parents are later married?
  • How should biological children be treated if there was no support and care provided to the child by the parent?
  • How should children conceived using assisted reproductive technology be treated?
    • Does it matter whether there is a biological connection to the parents?
    • Does it matter whether a surrogate was involved?

It is important that you consider who should be included as your children and descendants as your decision could affect where your assets go after you pass. If you think that you may be an intended parent, a presumed parent, or a de facto parent of an individual and have not incorporated your wishes in your estate plan, you may reach out to one of our Trusts & Estates lawyers to discuss your circumstances.

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