Inheritance and Equity: Understanding Legal Options When Spouse Is Left Off the Will

Losing someone we love is a painful experience. However, things can become even more complex when we discover that our late spouse has excluded us from their will. This situation raises questions regarding inheritance and fairness. Understanding that inheritance laws differ from state to state is crucial, so seeking advice from your jurisdiction is important.

Informed legal assistance is also a good way to improve your redressal chances. If your search for “what to do if my spouse left me off of will” overwhelms you, this blog post will explore available options.

1. Rights of Spouses in Cases of Intestate Succession

When someone passes away without a will, their estate is considered “intestate,” and laws regarding intestate succession come into effect. These laws determine how the person’s assets are distributed among surviving family members, including spouses. In the United States, a surviving spouse can inherit from their deceased partner’s estate – even if they were intentionally left out of the will.

The specifics of these rights may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Generally, it involves receiving a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate directly or by utilizing elective share statutes. Elective share laws allow a surviving partner to choose between what they would receive under intestate laws or claiming a specified percentage (one-third) of their deceased partner’s total net assets.

2. Challenging the Legitimacy of the Will

If you believe your spouse’s will was not made under legal conditions or executed correctly, you may have grounds to contest its validity in court. To successfully challenge a will, you must present evidence supporting one or more reasons for invalidation. Common grounds for contesting a will include lack of capacity (the person making the will was not mentally competent at the time), influence (someone manipulated or coerced the person into changing their wishes), fraud, mistake, and forgery or counterfeiting.

Proving these grounds can be difficult since substantial evidence is required. It is crucial to seek guidance from an attorney with experience in contested probate litigation to navigate the process.

3. Negotiating a Resolution

When a spouse has been excluded from the will discussions, a negotiation between the excluded spouse and the beneficiaries named in the will may lead to reaching an agreement and settling any disputes. A settlement can include options like receiving a one-time payment of assets from the estate or a regular income. These negotiations often involve considering claims that could be made against the estate if legal action were pursued. Both parties need to be open to discussions and willing to find compromises for settlements to succeed.

4. Considering Fair Distribution

Even if you cannot assert your spousal rights under intestate succession laws or by contesting the will’s validity, it’s important to recognize the legal avenues available for achieving fairness. In certain jurisdictions, courts have the discretion under distribution principles to adjust property division based on fairness and other relevant factors. If one spouse contributed during their marriage towards acquiring and maintaining assets but was excluded from their partner’s will – despite their obligations – they may have valid arguments for a larger share of those assets based on fair distribution principles.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been left out of your spouse’s will, it is crucial to seek legal counsel. Laws regarding inheritance and spousal rights can vary depending on your jurisdiction. A probate lawyer with expertise in such cases can assist you in assessing your situation based on the details and conditions. They can guide choices, such as exercising spousal rights in cases of intestate succession or exploring alternative approaches like contesting a will or engaging in settlement negotiations. It’s important to remember that seeking advice at an initial stage allows for a thorough evaluation of your case and ensures that you are fully aware of all the legal options before making any decisions.