Can Your Spouse Disinherit You? How Marriage Protects the Family

It’s the stuff of low-budget movies. The grieving widow, dressed in black with her face veiled, sits in the attorney’s oak-paneled conference room for the reading of the will.

Mystery surrounds the proceedings. Who among the family members present will inherit the patriarch’s vast estate?

The gray-headed attorney breaks the will’s wax seal and begins to read. Dramatic music swells as he utters phrases like “being of sound mind,” “heirs of the body,” and “give, bequeath, and devise.”

The widow’s gaze intensifies as the attorney comes to the words she has been waiting for: “And to my wife of many years, I leave . . . nothing.”

Audible gasps are heard as the widow faints in despair and is carried to a nearby sofa. Had her years of dutiful service meant nothing to the man she loved?

So much fiction. In the real world, there is no reading of the will (the beneficiaries will likely receive a copy by email). Women seldom wear veils. And a would-be disinherited spouse has options.


Three Reasons a Lawyer Should Settle Your Estate

When a loved one has died, the shock and sorrow of their loss may quickly lead to another emotional jolt—the prospect of having to settle their estate. Being named personal representative (executor) under someone’s will is both an honor and a burden. The process usually takes several months. There will likely be financial accounts to marshal, real estate to deal with, bills and taxes to pay, and probate filings to prepare—all at an emotionally difficult time.

For many personal representatives, their first question is “How can I get out of this?”

The good news is that a probate attorney can provide the necessary support and expertise to ensure that the estate is managed efficiently.


Why Your Estate Plan Might Need an Update

An estate plan is a set of papers that usually includes a will, durable power of attorney, and advance medical directive. These essential documents can help you manage financial and health-related matters if you ever become incapacitated, and they should provide for the efficient transfer of your assets upon your death.

In other words, an estate plan is a hedge against uncertainty, a defense against the curveballs life may toss your way. An up-to-date plan can help you minimize death taxes, protect your assets from creditors, provide for your loved ones, establish trusts for your children, and appoint guardians to care for them.

Although estate-planning documents don’t “expire,” they can become out of date and ineffective if your life circumstances have changed.


Empower Your Loved Ones with a ‘Power of Appointment’

Preparing an estate plan means having a say in what happens to your wealth after you are gone. Through a Last Will and Testament, you can name the important people in your life who will inherit your assets.

You can also specify whether they should receive these assets immediately upon your death or over time through a trust. Looking even farther ahead, you can give your loved ones a “power of appointment,” enabling them to say where any remaining trust assets should go when they themselves are out of the picture.

With a power of appointment at their disposal, your loved ones can direct their inheritance to subsequent generations wisely and effectively.