One of the most important functions of a will is that it allows you to dictate which beneficiaries will receive which assets after you pass.
Spousal Inheritance Rights
In the majority of cases, states do not allow individuals to cut their spouses completely out of a will. States that have community property rules, which states that a spouse automatically owns half of whatever income was acquired during the marriage, regardless of who earned that income. Certain assets might be considered separate property, such as income that was earned before the marriage, so it’s important to speak with a lawyer if you wish to sort out which assets would be considered community and separate.
In other states, there are no laws stating that spouses automatically own half of everything, but there are protections in place to ensure that a spouse does not disinherit their partner in a will. In these states, you’re likely to find that spouses automatically inherit one-third or one-half of whatever assets are placed in a will.
Although divorced spouses have the ability to include their ex-partners in a will, a divorce almost always means that an individual’s ex-partner is no longer automatically entitled to a portion of their inheritance.
Similarly, it’s possible to leave out your spouse from your will if your spouse consents to this. Some couples agree that they wish to leave their estates to their children or to charities, and this is especially common if they tend to keep their finances separate even while they’re married. If you’ve found yourself considering this option, be sure to speak with a lawyer who can help you create a valid will that reflects the wishes of you and your spouse.
Children’s Inheritance Rights
Unlike spouses, children do not automatically have the right to inherit any assets from their parents. Parents have the option to cut out their children from their wills completely, and it’s not uncommon to see this happen. However, wills do provide several opportunities to continue supporting your children after you pass.
Many states have laws that help protect against accidental disinheritance. For example, this can occur if a child is born after parents creates a will, including their other children as beneficiaries, but not revising the will to include the newest child. In most cases, the legal system assumes that the parents intended to include their youngest child but didn’t get a chance to make it happen before passing. The same might happen if a grandparent accidentally leaves out a grandchild’s name from their will without reason.
If you have young children, it’s important to consider naming a guardian for your children in your will. This person should be someone you know well and someone who would be capable of caring for your children..
Contact a Wills Lawyer
You can create a will on your own, but it never hurts to speak with a professional about the process before getting started. Contact a wills lawyer Ridgefield, CT trusts from our firm today to set up a free consultation.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into wills and estate planning.