The Moneyist: My father, 72, dropped a bombshell — he has a 9-year-old son. What happens to his $10 million estate?

Dear Quentin,

My mother and father had a rocky part of their marriage in their early 60s. They actually separated for about six months. My mother had some mental-health issues that caused the separation. My dad is nearly 72 and my mother passed away eight years ago.

My dad worked in a different town for a period of time. During that time, he had an affair with a much younger coworker. She got pregnant and had a baby boy. My mom and dad never said anything about this. She blamed herself for driving my dad away. 

Since my mom’s death my father has lived alone. He will disappear sometimes for a week at a time only saying that he is out of town visiting friends. My father has just been diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis is good, but he had a talk with all of my sisters about his estate. 

“‘He is your father’s biological child, and your half-sibling.’”

You have a couple of choices. You can split your father’s estate four ways, and treat your 9-year-old brother as an equal. Or you can use your state’s laws as a guide. I favor a 25% split. Your father can set up a trust in his name to provide for his schooling, provide him with an income and, eventually, a lump sum to spend on real estate or to set up his own business. 

In Texas, if there is more than one full sibling, half-siblings inherit half as much as the full sibling inherits because they only share one parent with their others, writes Rania Combs, an attorney licensed in Texas and North Carolina. In California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, and North Carolina, half-siblings and full siblings have the same intestacy rights, she adds.

There may come a time when he needs an older brother, or would like to have an older brother for guidance. In addition to this being a financial dilemma for your family — as far as your inheritance is concerned — it’s also an opportunity for you to mentor and be of service to this boy as he gets older. He may believe he is an only child.

The other inheritance, if you are willing, lies within the goodwill and acceptance of you and your two sisters.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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