What are Inheritance Laws?
Inheritance Laws are those statutes and regulations affecting who is entitled to receive what from the estate of a deceased relative. Some relatives, such as spouses and children, have a right to claim an inheritance and can even do so despite the express terms of a will.
In most circumstances, the law prohibits leaving a spouse completely out of a will. In states that follow a community property system (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington,Wisconsin, and Alaska) each spouse automatically owns half of what they both earned during the marriage unless they have a written agreement to the contrary. As a result, either spouse can do what he or she likes with his or her half-share of the community property and his or her separate property. Everywhere else, while there is no rule that property acquired during marriage is automatically owned by both spouses, most states give a surviving spouse the right to claim either 1/3 to Ĺ (depending on the jurisdiction) of the deceased spouse's estate in order to prevent anyone from becoming disinherited. This is true regardless of the terms of the will, and usually in spite of them. These provisions of law apply only if a surviving spouse petitions the court for his or her share per the statute. If he or she does not object to receiving less, the will is honored and the decedent's last wishes will be carried out as instructed.
Most states grant no rights at all to children to inherit from their parents. However, in a few circumstances children may be entitled to claim a share of a deceased parent's property. Most states also have laws to protect against accidental disinheritance. That is, if a will predates the birth of a child and leaves property to the child's siblings but the will was never revised after the child's birth, the law presumes the parent did not intend to omit the newest child, giving that child certain rights to inherit. In some jurisdictions, these laws can apply not only to direct children, but also to any grandchildren of a child who has died. If one wishes to disinherit a child or grandchild, the will should clearly state this intention or else that survivor may have a legal basis for challenging the will.
For more information about Inheritance Laws, you may review the materials found below. Also, given the obviously complex nature of these laws and the ways they interact with other areas of estate planning, it may be wise to consult with an attorney before preparing a will, claiming an inheritance through court proceedings, or opening any other actions in probate. You can find a list of attorneys in your area who focus their practices on estate law by visiting the Law Firms page of our website.
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Articles on HG.org Related to Inheritance Law
- Can I Put a Trust in My Will?Many people choose to have either a trust or a will. However, others may actually include a trust within a will. This is often referred to as a testamentary trust. This type of trust does not go into effect until the testatorís death. Other trusts are set up during the lifetime of the person making it. There are important things to understand about a trust of this nature.
- Your Special Needs Child and Estate PlanningWhen there are children with special needs that may inherit or are dependent on the estate owner, certain provisions are necessary in the estate plan. This could include healthcare, long-term care, planning for the unexpected and hiring an agent to ensure business matters are taken care of while the child adjusts to his or her new role.
- Three Types of Trusts: Differences and SimilaritiesTrusts are created usually to assist heirs with managing or acquiring assets that may bypass probate or other legal concerns such as dependents that attempt to challenge a will. Other benefits of trusts may include evading certain taxes, lawyer expenses and keeping the income within the family or with a beneficiary that has been chosen by the estate owner.
- Effect of Failing to Account for Unborn Children in an Estate PlanWhen building an estate plan, it is crucial to account for unborn children when their conception is known. Without planning for these children, the owner of the estate may have challenges to his or her will, last testament or other legal documents to pass down his or her assets to dependents.
- What New Parents Need to Know about WillsEvery parent should have an understanding of how will work and why one is necessary. Unfortunately, over half of all United States citizens have no will or any preparation for the next generation of heirs, and this could leave state processes passing on assets.
- What to Do when a Disability Disrupts Your Estate PlanDisabilities may occur at any time in the life of an individual. Because of this, it is important to plan properly and adjust the estate plan when an unforeseen disability disrupts the life of the owner of an estate.
- When Irrevocable Trusts can be ModifiedBased on the circumstances, it may be possible to modify irrevocable trusts even though they are generally unchangeable. There are five different times when these trusts may be altered to fit the needs of the creator that owns an estate.
- Explanations of Irrevocable TrustsAn irrevocable trust is one that may not be modified once it has been created, so it cannot be revoked, amended, changed or altered in any way. Money, property and holdings placed into irrevocable trusts cannot be removed at a later date, so it is important the owner is aware that this is a permanent action.
- Small Estate Administration ConsiderationsSmall estates usually only deal with a few dependents or surviving family members. This means that there are only so many issue that may rise, and the administration should be simplified when there are fewer persons and complications that may be involved.
- How to Select a Trustee, Executor and AgentWhen creating estates, trusts and other items necessary to see the long-term success of an estate or individual, it is important to know how and which trustee, executor and agent to select for these matters. Knowing which information is best to go on when choosing these persons is not easy to discern, and sometimes legal help is better than choosing alone.
- All Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Estate Planning including: estate and trust, inheritance law, personal property, probate, wills.
Inheritance Law - US
- ABA - Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section
The Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section is a leading national forum for lawyers, and currently has over 30,000 members. The Real Property Division focuses on legal aspects of property use, ownership, development, transfer, regulation, financing, taxation and disposal. The Trust and Estate Division focuses on all aspects of trusts, estate planning, employee benefits, insurance, and probate and trust litigation.
- Estate and Gift Taxes
One of the oldest and most common forms of taxation is the taxation of property held by an individual at the time of their death. Such a tax can take the form, among others, of estate tax (a tax levied on the estate before any transfers). An estate tax is a charge upon the decedent's entire estate, regardless of how it is disbursed. An alternative is an inheritance tax (a tax levied on individuals receiving property from the estate). Taxes imposed upon death can provide incentive to transfer assets before death.
- Inheritance Law - Definition
In civil law jurisdictions it is called succession. The concept depends on a common acceptance of the notion of private ownership of goods and property. Under some systems land is considered communal property and rights to it are redistributed, rather than bequeathed, on the death of a community member. In many countries a minimum portion of the decedentís estate must be assigned to the surviving spouse and often to the progeny as well.
- Intestacy - Wikipedia
Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of his enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of the estate, the remaining estate forms the "Intestate Estate." Intestacy law, also referred to as the law of descent and distribution or intestate succession statutes, refers to the body of law that determines who is entitled to the property from the estate under the rules of inheritance.
- IRS - Inheritance and Estate Taxes
The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death. It consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death. The fair market value of these items is used, not necessarily what you paid for them or what their values were when you acquired them. The total of all of these items is your "Gross Estate." The includible property may consist of cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets.
- State Intestacy Laws
Do you really know what happens to your property if you die without a will? Some common misconceptions include everything being given to charity or to the state. Another common misconception, with more serious consequences, is the belief that a surviving spouse is always granted all or substantially all of the deceased spouse's intestate estate.
- Uniform Simultaneous Death Act
USDA creates default rule that one must survive another by 120 hours to avoid disputes caused by simultaneous or quickly successive deaths of persons between whom property or death benefits pass on the death of one survived by the other.
Organizations Related to Inheritance Law
- American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is a national organization of approximately 2,600 lawyers elected to membership by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence and experience as trust and estate counselors.