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How Divorce Affects Inheritance Rights

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

What is Inheritance?

Inheritance generally refers to any money or property a person receives upon someone’s death. Usually property and money gets passed to others after someone dies through an estate plan and/or a process known as “probate.” If there is any property that isn’t administered per the express terms of a will or other instrument of an estate plan, it is passed down through a process known as “intestate succession.”

When a person dies without a will, the laws of intestate succession dictate the priority of who receives property. The laws of intestate succession in most states usually give widows or widowers priority, followed by surving “issue” (children and great grandchildren), and then any surviving parents or siblings.

Inheritance of Spouses

In most jurisdictions, an individual may not leave their spouse completely out of a will. However, when a couple gets divorced, a former spouse does not automatically have a rightful claim to your estate. However, upon divorce, your former spouse is entitled to an equitable share of all property received while the both of your were married.

The terms of a will. Upon divorce, it is highly recommended that you update your will if you had one. A proper will typically identifies beneficiaries by both name and their relationship to you. If your will is not updated, and your former spouse is still identified as “Alex Doe, my spouse” for example, they probably won’t have a claim to your estate according to such a provision. However, this issue will most likely complicate the probate process.

Intestate succession. If you die without a will, state intestacy laws govern inheritance. A former spouse typically does not have a right to your estate under the laws of intestate succession. If you remarried, your surviving spouse has a priority claim to your property upon your death. However, your new spouse’s share of your estate might be reduced if you were also survived by children from your former marriage.

Inheritance of Children

Divorce does not affect the legal relationship between parent and child. As a result, provisions of a will that identify someone as “Jordan Doe, my son/daughter” for example, will not be impacted by divorce. In most states, you can disinherent any of your adult children, and they do not have an overriding right to your estate.

If you die without a will, you surviving children still have a right to your estate. However, if you remarry after divorce and have children with your new spouse, they have a priority right to your estate over the children from your former marriage.

Step children typically do not automatically have a right to your estate under the laws of intestate succession. If you want to leave your step children with any of your property after you pass away, you must expressly provide for them in your will.

Quality Legal Advocacy from DiPietro Law Group

Divorce is a significant event that can affect the legal rights of a number of people. Given the legal implications , you should consult an experienced attorney from DiPietro Law Group for advice, if you are considering getting a divorce. We have the experience and sophisiticated understanding of the law to protect your rights and promote your goals during family law proceedings.

Contact DiPietro Law Group at (888) 530-4374 or visit us online to schedule a consultation for quality legal advice today.

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