We really need more information to even guess as to the answer. First, the aunt can leave her assets to whomever she chooses. The IRA, 401k and life insurance are generally governed by beneficiary designations completed and signed by your aunt. If a beneficiary designation was completed properly, no court appearance or probate proceedings will be required and no notice to any other parties in needed or generally provided. If a beneficiary designation was not completed, then those items will be paid to your Aunt's estate and subject to probate proceedings. If the amounts are small, there are summart proceedings that may be use short of a full probate. Other assets from you Aunt's and the real father's estate are governed by their respective estate plan and the manner in which to to the assets or accounts is held. I am very sorry for the loss of your family members and for what I preceive to be the conflict that has followed. To get an accurate answer, you should meet with an attorney and be prepared to provide copies of any estate planning documents, a list of the assets and any title information and the names of all of the relatives of the deceased.
Inheritance is a privilege, not a right. One may leave their estate to anyone they choose.
Our replies to Avvo questions should not be considered specific legal advice to any individual, and no attorney-client relationship is formed with you. Our aim is to provide general principles that may be useful to the Avvo community as a whole. You should seek individual legal advice pertaining to your specific factual situation, and the laws applicable to your jurisdiction. Moore & Moore Attorneys at Law -- firstname.lastname@example.org
My colleagues are correct that the aunt can leave her assets/estate to persons other than blood children if she chooses with one exception. Some states do give children (at least minor children) and spouses minimum rights. Your aunt's choices can be challenged on grounds such as fraud and undue influence, but you may or may not win. Consult a local trusts and estates attorney if you wish to identify options.
Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit SpecialNeedsNJ.com for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax and SpecialNeedsNJ.com/blog for timely updates. Information on both Avvo and SpecialNeedsNJ.com does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.