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Grandchild Born ‘Out of Wedlock’ Denied Inheritance

In a recent interesting case from Canada, a man has been told that he is not entitled to any inheritance from his grandmother’s estate because he was born ‘out of wedlock’, the Toronto Star reports.

Jesse Sullivan’s parents never married, and after their relationship broke down his father married another woman. After this, Mr Sullivan’s relationship with his father and his paternal grandmother, Jadwiga Koziarski, eventually deteriorated.

Mrs Koziarski wrote a will in December 1977 that left her estate to her living children. If any of them predeceased her, their share was to be given to their ‘issue’. Mr Sullivan’s father subsequently passed away before his mother, which meant that Mr Sullivan should have inherited at least part of his share. However, at the time the will was written, the term ‘issue’ only included children born from married parents. It is not thought that Mrs Koziarski knew this or understood the effect of the wording of her will.

Legislation was eventually introduced to ensure the term ‘issue’ included children born outwith marriage, but this only applied to wills written after 31st March 1978 – around four months after Mrs Koziarski’s will.

The executor of her will questioned whether Mr Sullivan was entitled to be treated as a beneficiary, and the judge hearing the case said that because of when the will was written he regretfully had no choice but to rule that Mr Sullivan was not entitled to a share of his grandmother’s estate.

Legal commentators have highlighted that the case is a good demonstration of why it is important that people review their will regularly and update them where necessary to ensure they continue to reflect their wishes.

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