Unsupportive Father Entitled to Half of Disabled Daughter's Estate

Jennifer Rogiers was born severely handicapped as a result of a cervical cord injury at her birth in 1983. Her mother, Rosa Rogiers, recovered $2.6 million from a medical malpractice claim, which was placed in trust for Jennifer's benefit. During her life, Jennifer lived with her mother. Jennifer died at age 22, without a will. At the time of her death, there was approximately $1.1 million remaining in her trust.

Jennifer's father, Ruben Martinez, requested half of the money in the trust under the New Jersey's intestacy laws, which determine heirs when there is no will. Ms. Rogiers challenged his request, arguing that because he did not support Jennifer during her lifetime, Mr. Martinez does not qualify as her parent. A New Jersey lower court awarded Mr. Martinez the money and Ms. Rogiers appealed.

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, ruled that Mr. Martinez qualifies as a parent even though he did not support Jennifer during her lifetime, and thus he is entitled to half of her estate. The court held that it is not necessary that a parent support a child in order to inherit from the child under the state's intestacy laws.

To read the full text of the decision, In the Matter of Rogiers (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Div., No. A-0651-06T1, Oct. 23, 2007), click here. Article Last Modified: 11/20/2007