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In the United States, it’s easy to disinherit most family members – generally, you can use your estate plan to disinherit your brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, or even your very own children and grandchildren. But believe it or not, in the U.S. it’s very difficult to disinherit your spouse.
In the majority of states and the District of Columbia, you can’t intentionally disinherit your spouse unless your spouse actually agrees to receive nothing from your estate in a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement.
If you don’t have a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement, what your spouse is entitled to inherit from you upon your death varies widely from state to state. Each state has its own laws governing spousal inheritance rights, and these laws vary widely:
- In some states, the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on how long the couple was married.
- In some states, the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on whether or not children were born of the marriage.
- In some states, the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on the value of assets included in the deceased spouse’s probate estate.
- In some states, the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on an “augmented estate” which includes the deceased spouse’s probate estate and non-probate assets.
If you have property in more than one state or have lived in more than one state over the course of your marriage, it gets more complicated to apply the varying state laws to your family. Further, state laws also vary widely regarding the time limit a surviving spouse has to seek their inheritance rights, which can range anywhere from a few months to a few years.
If you need help to get a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement in place so that you and your spouse are in control of your assets, if your spouse has attempted to disinherit you, or if you need guidance on protecting your spousal inheritance rights, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. At Littleton Legal we’ll help you weigh all of your options to protect your interests. Give us a call at (918) 608-1836.