Discovering your ancestry can be both fun and fascinating. At-home DNA tests have grown in popularity in recent years. Often given as a unique gift for loved ones, the kits reveal details about our individual and collective pasts. Unfortunately, these tests aren’t all fun and games. When a test reveals an unexpected relative or biological child, your estate plan may need updating. (If you think such concerns are overblown, read this, from the New York Times. Note that the Times has a paywall, so some non-subscribers may not be able to read it.)
If you do not have a will, a newly discovered biological child could be entitled to inherit your assets just like your other children. This could spell serious trouble for your known family after your passing. Without proper planning, a person with whom you have no relationship could end up with the same inheritance as your other children.
Even with a will, a newly discovered biological child may be able to claim a share of your assets under the pretermitted heir rules of your state. In Texas, a pretermitted child is a child who is born or adopted after a will is made and is not mentioned in the will. The Texas Estates Code provides that if the pretermitted child is not otherwise provided for by the deceased parent, the child will take a portion of the estate even though he or she is not mentioned in the will.
Genealogy isn’t the straight-forward hobby it once was. If you decide to take a DNA test, it’s important to be aware of the risks. We may be accustomed to our medical information staying private, but commercial DNA testing companies are not subject to the same privacy laws that health care providers must obey. As soon as you send your DNA off for testing, it becomes part of a database regulated by the company behind the kit. These companies can volunteer their database for all kinds of unexpected uses. Police, pharmaceutical companies, and app developers are all hungry for this kind of data.
While it’s never a good idea to let fear guide your decision-making process, it is a good idea to know exactly what you might be risking by taking these DNA tests. Even if you are certain you don’t have an unknown child to worry about, these tests can bring about an assortment of unexpected legal consequences. With the proper planning, though, you can rest easy knowing your assets are protected.
If you’re concerned about your estate planning after taking a home DNA test, schedule an appointment to meet with us as soon as possible. We can help you formally outline the specific individuals you want to inherit your assets in your estate planning documents and those you wish to disinherit.
Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the expansive consequences of home DNA testing, read this article from the New York Times. The article covers the use of DNA in crime investigations, as well as explores the legal and privacy implications involved.