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Inheritance rights: know your position

When someone drafts their will and puts together their estate plan, the chief reason for doing so is to protect their assets and pass them on to their family members and loved ones. These assets compose an heir's "inheritance," and when someone inherits property and assets, it is important that they understand their rights.

See, when people don't understand their rights or when the grantor fails to complete his or her estate plan in a thorough and compliant manner, it can cause unnecessary and painful litigation that hurts family members and loved ones, while also dealing a significant financial blow to everyone involved.

With that in mind, consider the following:

  • If you are the spouse of the grantor, then your entitlements to his or her estate depend on what state you live. Community property states afford the spouse one-half of a share of any assets garnered during the marriage. Common law states do not follow this procedure, and then it depends on how the estate plan is worded. Common law states do protect a spouse from complete disinheritance though.
  • In case of a divorce, the ex-spouse usually doesn't have a claim to any assets. Even if the ex-spouse is named in the will, a claim could be made that the will simply wasn't updated to reflect the divorce. Certain states will still allow an ex-spouse to inherit from his or her former spouse's will.
  • For children, it is important to realize that there are few, if any, legal protections regarding their inheritance. Unintentional omissions are protected though.

Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance Law and Your Rights," Accessed July 12, 2016

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