Right to Inherit in Pennsylvania

Who has a right to claim part of your Estate even if you have a Will?

Close relatives such as a surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren may have a right to claim an inheritance. This right of inheritance may even override what your will states.  In Pennsylvania here is how it works:

Inheritance Rights of Spouse:

A surviving spouse, in most cases, and unless you have a prenuptial agreement, cannot be completely cut out of a will or disinherited. In Pennsylvania, unlike community property states, there is no rule that property bought during marriage is owned by both spouses.  But, Pennsylvania does give the surviving spouse the right to claim an elective share of one-third to one-half of the estate no matter what the will states. The surviving spouse must go to court in order to object what a will states or claim an elective share. If your will gives your spouse less than one- half of your estate consult your lawyer and get a written consent or post nuptial agreement from your spouse as to what your estate planning includes.

Inheritance Rights of Ex-Spouse:

Most states automatically revoke gifts made to an ex- spouse. To be safe, if you get divorced make a new will that revokes the old will. Also review all of your life insurance, beneficiary designations and the designations under your IRA's and 401 K's.

Inheritance Rights of Children:

In most cases children do not have a right to inherit anything from their parents. In a few cases a child may have a right to a deceased parent's estate. Most states have laws to protect against accidental disinheritance. If a child is born after a will was created by the parents and it is not revised to include the child, the law looks at the will as if the parents did not intend to leave out the child. The law will presume the will was not updated. In this circumstance the child may have a right to a large part of the parent's estate. This right may also apply to grandchildren and children of a deceased child. If you want to disinherit a child, grandchild, and or child of a deceased child make sure you are clear in your will. Also remember to review your will periodically and if there are major changes in your life like a new child. Plan for your future today by creating or updating your will.


Research: Whitney O'Reilly Law Clerk

David M. Frees III


David M. Frees, III
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