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I Have No Will. What Happens To My Children?

After you pass away, do you know what your child can receive if you have no will? 

Parents are not obligated to leave any property to their children upon their death. Parents do not legally have to provide any of their belongings or estate to children. This sounds a little harsh, but some states allow parents the ability to disavow or disown their children in their will. Known as “interested persons”, children may have the right to, under certain circumstances, contest their parent’s will. Now if you, as a parent, were to pass away without a will, your children may have rights to your property under state law. These children become heirs. 

I Have A Will. What Are My Child’s Rights? 

Congratulations if you already have a will! Overseen by a probate court, your selected executor will be legally bound to distribute assets to your children according to the terms of the will. In most cases, a child will be the beneficiary of any property left to them by their parent. In other cases, that parent may leave nothing behind for their children, and may even disown their children. Sometimes, the courts may conclude the children could have been left out of a will by accident. Because of this, the exclusion of the children in a parent’s will must be detailed extremely explicitly, or that child may – against your wishes – be able to have a right, under state law, to inherit your property.  

There may also be instances where parents leave their children with more assets than the state law permits. For example, marital property cannot be left to a child simply because the surviving spouse has rights to a segment of the marital estate. 

I Don’t Have A Will. What Are My Child’s Rights? 

Good question! If you, as a parent, pass away without a will, a probate court will apply the default laws of intestate succession. (Intestate succession is basically what happens when someone passes away without a valid Will or some other legal declaration. … A court distributes the property according to current state laws rather than using the decedent’s plan (or input from those closest to him or her) (Hicks, Patrick; Understanding Intestate Succession: A Complete Guide, 2021). Children have rights to your inheritance if you die without a will, especially in non-community property states, where spouses can equally own marital assets. With community property states, children are not entitled to inherit your property, but your surviving spouse can receive half of your estate. 

If each spouse owns their property, in most states, the children and surviving spouse can inherit equal shares generally, of the deceased parent’s assets. If you have only one child, for example, that child would be able to equally split the estate with your surviving spouse. 

Do Children Have Rights?

Since Children are considered an “Interested Person” regarding the property of their parents, children have rights in contesting their parent’s wills, especially if they feel changes need to be made or are unhappy with dispersion portions. Children can contest concerns in probate court. 

Would you like to learn more? Contact Dana Cannon, Attorney at Cannon Legal FIrm. Your local choice for all Wills, Living Trusts, Elder Law, and other needs.  This content is for informational purposes only. Statements are an expression of the author.