There are certain people that are considered to have a “right to inherit” your property upon your death. These people are typically your closest relatives, including your spouse, your children and possibly your grandchildren. These relatives may be able to make an inheritance claim against your estate, even if your will does not name one or more of these relatives as a beneficiary.
Other family members, such as siblings, parents and grandparents may also be entitled to inherit if more immediate relatives are non-existent.
To determine the right to inherit, the courts follow your state’s laws of intestacy but this can be overcome by having a valid Will or Trust that outlines how your estate should be distributed.
It is possible that the Will or Trust could be contested and perhaps even declared invalid by a judge in the event that you do something unusual, such as disinherit a child or a spouse.
The “right to inherit” also typically implies the right to contest so if you’re leaving an immediate family member out of your Will, you should take steps to ensure that it’s clear that omission wasn’t an oversight on your part. You should further provide documentation that proves to the court that you were of sound mind when you made the decision.
Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that a judge won’t still consider the contest. But the more documentation you provide, the better chance you have of ensuring that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Also remember that because inheritance laws can be quite complicated, it is never a good idea to try and write your own will. If you want to protect your family and your estate the best thing you could do is to retain the services of an experienced estate-planning attorney.