I recently got an inquiry from someone who wanted to write a will leaving everything to one of her children, but not the other. They were both under 18. Was this legal? she asked.
Her younger child was being raised by his father and step-mother, and they were well off. She hadn’t seen him in years, and had no relationship with him, although she was paying child support, which was taken out of her check bi-weekly. She greatly resented having to pay, and felt that the son she was raising really deserved to get whatever she had to give when she died.
The answer, at least in New York, is no. A child has no right to inherit, and you do not have to leave anything to your children, even if they are minors.
The only person who has a right to inherit from you is your spouse. If you don’t leave anything to your spouse, she or he may elect to take $50,000 or 1/3 of your net estate, whichever is greater (ETPL 5-1.1-A). This is assuming that you had a valid marriage, which was not annulled during your lifetime.
You do have an obligation to pay child support while you are alive, but that obligation for support ends upon your death. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But such is legal logic.