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Lawsuit For Share Of An Inheritance?

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Stevenson Law Office

Can I File A Lawsuit For My Share Of An Inheritance?

The death of a loved one can have a devastating impact on family and friends. Not just emotionally, but financially, as well. In between the funeral and leftover bills, there’s also the inheritance. Sometimes an individual who has passed writes a will that clearly states who the inheritance will go to. When this isn’t the case, unfortunately, then it could get complicated. There are times where you may have to file an inheritance lawsuit if need be. Before understanding whether or not you can sue, you must first know what your inheritance rights are.

**Please note that Stevenson Law Office only accepts cases in California.  If you are outside of the State of California, please contact a local attorney to discuss your matter.

What Is Inheritance Law In Regard To Survivors?

Inheritance law dictates which parties receive certain estates from a deceased individual. The survivors in question include:

  • surviving spouse
  • children
  • grandchildren
  • divorced spouse

For most types of survivors, the inheritance laws are consistent. It’s important to check with a local law firm just in case to see what your state laws say. Surviving spouses have different laws depending on whether it’s from a community property state or a common law property state. They could also determine if suing for inheritance is an option.

Surviving Spouse Inheritance Rights In A Community Property State

A person who obtains an item, money, or debt while married shares it with their spouse in a community property state. There are nine community property states:

  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Washington
  • Louisiana
  • Wisconsin
  • Idaho
  • California
  • Nevada

In terms of inheritance law, a companion automatically obtains half of the marital property. The half that belonged to the deceased spouse will go to whomever they have chosen in their will. This could be the surviving spouse, kids, grandkids, or a charity of their choice. A companion doesn’t have the right to give away their deceased spouse’s share.

Surviving Spouse Inheritance Rights In Common Law Property States

Every other state besides the nine listed above applies common law. This means that any debt, money, or items obtained by one spouse will only belong to that one spouse. Money put in a joint account or a home purchased together, however, will belong to both spouses.

The property obtained in a marriage doesn’t immediately belong to both spouses. Any item with a spouse’s title only belongs to that spouse. This is also the case if that spouse purchased that property with their income if there isn’t or can’t be a title. A surviving spouse is protected by law from being disinherited. They could still receive a minimum amount of the property that regulations allow, meaning one-third.

Inheritance Rights Of Children

Though there aren’t laws that protect the rights of children to receive their parents’ inheritance, there are laws that protect them from unintentional omissions. This can occur if the children aren’t mentioned in the will, especially if any children were born after the will was created. This can depend on whether or not the remaining spouse survived or if the omission was made intentional in the will.

Inheritance Rights Of Grandchildren

Grandchildren can’t legally get any inheritance from their grandparent unless their parent has passed away. If they were particularly omitted from the will, then they will not receive any inheritance.

Inheritance Rights Of Ex-Spouses

If a will isn’t renewed after a divorce, then properties could accidentally go to an ex-spouse. Though some states automatically remove ex-spouses from the will, others will not.

When Can You File A Lawsuit?

There can be multiple reasons why you can file an inheritance lawsuit. One of the main reasons is if the deceased individual didn’t write a will and it isn’t clear on who gets the estate. Without a will, an estate may have to be claimed in order to be given to an individual.

A surviving spouse in a common law property state could file a lawsuit if the will of their deceased spouse disinherits them. It could also be filed if the amount of property proclaimed to be given by the spouse in the will is below the minimum mandated amount. Indicting can apply in general against a will if it doesn’t follow state law requirements. Both children and grandchildren can sue for inheritance if they are unintentionally omitted from the will.

In addition to who can file a lawsuit are the further reasons why. There could be suspect that the will may be improper or incorrect. The person who wrote the will may have been manipulated into writing the will a particular way or the will itself. Perhaps the person who wrote the will was mentally incapable, like if they had dementia or became senile.

A newer will might have been made to replace the one in question, so you could sue for inheritance if that is the case. Finally, if the will wasn’t signed in front of certain witnesses as well as a particular amount of witnesses, then you could charge for inheritance.

Specific people can challenge a will. Each category of individuals has their own inheritance rights. It’s through these rights that parties can obtain their share of the estate from the departed person. However, lawsuits can be filed when a will is unclear, unlawful, or non-existent. If you are considering suing for inheritance, then it is highly recommended that you find a professional who is aware of the intricate details of inheritance law.

**Please note that Stevenson Law Office only accepts cases in California.  If you are outside of the State of California, please contact a local attorney to discuss your matter.