Inheritance is a finicky process and one that many families have fought each other for. Sometimes it’s out of greed, while, sometimes, it’s because they don’t fully understand the law behind it. As a child of someone who might have a stake in your parent’s estate in the future, you might be interested in such laws. In this article, we will talk about the essentials of inheritance laws and some complications that might come with them.
Many Americans have an estate to give to their children. It’s estimated that each American household has on average $700,000 worth of assets distributed among each individual. If we look at the average net worth of each American, it’s estimated that older people or those aged 75 years old and older have a median net worth of about $254,000 in their name. Essentially, that’s how much average asset an older adult owns in the US.
If you think about it, that’s a sizeable amount of assets. But how is it distributed?
Last Will and Testament
You might have heard this part a thousand times over in movies and TV shows. A rich older relative dies, and a family fights over his last will and testament. Well, in most instances, the last will and testament work well enough to distribute a deceased person’s estate. Unfortunately, it’s usually followed to the letter, which is why an estate lawyer should be around when planning it.
The court requires approval from the lawyer who has helped write the will to be translated into action. But, in some situations, not everything will be listed in the will. In some rare cases, there might not even be a will. So what happens then? It falls into the US’s two most common inheritance laws: community property and common law.
In states that follow community property laws, the deceased’s spouse immediately has the right to own half of the estate, given that there is no will from the deceased. The remaining half can then be distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries, including their children and any grandchildren.
Essentially, what can be owned by the living spouse is what is earned by the couple during the marriage. However, those owned by the deceased before the marriage can be a different story and can lead to legal claims, an individual status for those who want to pursue such properties.
In this particular law, the spouse does not immediately inherit the assets owned by the deceased. In most situations, the spouse can lay claim to one-third of the estate, but nothing more. The remaining assets will then be distributed to the beneficiaries (as stated earlier) equally or by the name indicated in each property or asset.
What About Ex-Spouses?
If your deceased parent has a long list of ex-spouses or at least has a couple, do they have the right to claim a part of the estate? Just to make this clear, everyone can file a claim to the deceased estate, but not everyone has automatically the right to have it unless stated in the will otherwise. So if it’s not stated in the will, ex-spouses will have to file claims on assets and properties they think is rightfully theirs.
This is a much trickier process, especially for the ex-spouse, but it’s relatively common for assets earned by the deceased from a previous marriage.
Step-Siblings and Extended Family
In these modern times, the nuclear family we have is no longer the standard; you might have a step-sibling or two. You might need a lawyer who specializes in family law to distinguish who are the rightful heirs in your family. Once it’s determined who the rightful heirs are, it should be much easier to enact the deceased’s will.
Usually, if there is a will, it will be indicated who the deceased’s rightful beneficiaries are. But in instances where there is no will, the primary children who are part of the current marriage will most likely be the ones to receive most of the inheritance.
Don’t feel bad for those who aren’t distinguished as rightful heirs by law. They usually get something when it’s all said and done. Some are willing to give a part of the inheritance to them if it’s justifiable.
If you don’t want any of these things to happen, ask your parents to plan some estate. This will help them write down their will, so you don’t have to file claims or go to court to claim for each asset your parents might have in possession. It will ensure that you can live a peaceful life, after theirs.