Family & Heirs

Understanding Inheritance Rights

Creating a Last Will and Testament is one of the best ways to outline your wishes for who you want to receive your property and assets after you’re gone. However, inheritance law governs the rights of your surviving relatives to claim an inheritance – even if it varies from what is in your will. While you can legally leave property to anyone you wish, inheritance laws may impact who is entitled to receive at least a portion of your property.

Inheritance Rights of Surviving Spouses

In most cases, you cannot legally cut a current spouse out of your will entirely. The amount to which the surviving spouse is entitled varies based on whether the state is a community property state. In a community property state, spouses are entitled to half of all property acquired during the marriage in the event of divorce or death. If the will does not give the current spouse at least half of all shared property, the spouse can contest the will to request the full fifty percent to which they are entitled. In a non-community property state, the specific laws vary from state to state, but a spouse may be able to claim up to one-third of the property of their deceased spouse.

Inheritance Rights of Ex-Spouses

Generally, ex-spouses have no legal claim to an inheritance from the deceased. However, to be on the safe side, consider revising your estate plan after divorce to revoke your previous will and remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary.

Inheritance Rights of Children & Grandchildren

Children or grandchildren typically have no legal claim to inherit any portion of their parent’s or grandparent’s estate. Most states have some type of protection in the event of an accidental inheritance. For example, if the deceased wrote their will prior to the birth of a child and listed previous children as beneficiaries in their will, the state will likely assume the deceased did not intentionally disinherit the child. In doing so, the child left out of the will may be entitled to a share of the deceased’s property. If you want to intentionally disinherit a child or grandchild, clearly say so in your will to avoid confusion. Consult with your estate planning attorney to review your legal options if you want to disinherit a child or grandchild.

The best way to ensure your wishes are filled is to create, review and update your estate plan regularly. No matter if you’re just getting started or making minor changes, contact a Fifth Third Bank financial advisor today to assist you in estate planning.

Fifth Third Bank does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax adviser or attorney before making any decisions or taking any action based on this information. This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute the rendering of tax or legal advice.

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