Not Kidding: Not in the Will Does Not Mean Not a Child

Your relative may not mention all his children in his will for several reasons:

  • the child may have already have received his inheritance
  • the child may have been disowned by the parent
  • the child may automatically receive a portion of the family estate due to the law at the time

Often parents will name children in their will who have already received an inheritance or who are being disowned so that they cannot say they were accidentally left out. In some locations in some time periods, the oldest son would automatically receive a portion of the estate–whether it was in the will or not. You’ll need to know what the custom was at the time to know whether or not this could have been the case.

You also need to read the will to see if the word “child,” “son,” or “daughter” is used when referring to the individual in the document. The relationship is usually stated, but not necessarily.

But just because Thomas Smith does not list Jonas Smith in his will does not mean that Jonas is not his son. You’ll just have to do some more work to determine if he actually was.

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