Blood Relatives & Wills

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

If you make a will, you can leave property to your blood relatives -- your children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and other biological relatives -- or you can exclude them from your will. If you die without leaving a will, a state probate court will divide your property between your spouse, if you are married, and some of your blood relatives. If you leave a will that is unclear, doesn't follow your state's requirements for a valid will, or contains odd provisions that suggest you are not mentally competent, your blood relatives can challenge the will.

If you make a will, you can leave property to your blood relatives -- your children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and other biological relatives -- or you can exclude them from your will. If you die without leaving a will, a state probate court will divide your property between your spouse, if you are married, and some of your blood relatives. If you leave a will that is unclear, doesn't follow your state's requirements for a valid will, or contains odd provisions that suggest you are not mentally competent, your blood relatives can challenge the will.

State Inheritance Laws

Each state has its own complex laws regarding what constitutes a valid will and which of your blood relatives will inherit your property if you die without one. If you make a valid will, you can choose to disinherit any of your blood relations, including your children. Only Louisiana does not allow parents to disinherit a child. Although your spouse is not considered a blood relative, most states provide legal protections to spouses whereby you cannot disinherit your spouse so long as you are legally married.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

No Will

Typically, if you die without leaving a will, known as dying intestate, the probate court will give your property to your surviving spouse, children or grandchildren, a process known as intestate succession. If you die without a spouse, children or grandchildren, your property may go to your parents or siblings. You may wish to consult your state's laws to determine the exact blood relative intestate succession rights in your state.

Intestate Disadvantages

Dying without a will means blood relatives whom you dislike may inherit a substantial amount of your property, while your live-in companion, other blood relatives you are fond of and friends may receive nothing. In addition, if you die without a will, a probate court must appoint an administrator to review your estate and locate your heirs, a process that can create delays and expenses that drain your estate's cash.

Valid Will

If you are drafting or updating your will, be sure that it conforms to your state's requirements for a valid will. States typically require your will to be signed and dated, contain no confusing language and have no unusual bequests that suggest your mind is impaired. Otherwise, your blood relatives may be able to successfully challenge your will.

Blood Relatives Challenge

In one well-known example of blood relatives challenging a will, two grandchildren of Leona Helmsley, a deceased wealthy businesswoman, successfully attacked her will, which disinherited them while leaving millions of dollars to her dog. A judge decided that Helmsley was mentally unfit while drafting the will. Therefore, the court ordered that each disinherited grandchild receive $6 million and the dog's share of Helmsley's estate reduced to $2 million.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Are the Basic Principles of Inheritance?

References

Resources

Related articles

The Hierarchy of Heirs

The hierarchy of heirs is determined by laws that govern inheritance in each state. Some states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code and have based their inheritance laws on its recommendations. The Uniform Probate Code provides rules concerning who is entitled to inherit a deceased relative's property/estate if no last will and testament was executed. Although laws may vary somewhat by state, typically the hierarchy of heirs is intended to divide the estate fairly among surviving family members.

Advice on Contesting Wills

A will contest or a will challenge is a court case brought to dispute the validity of a will, according to FindLaw. In most cases, a will contest is filed with the probate court, and the executor of the estate is responsible for defending the will's validity. It may be wise to hire an attorney for a will contest. He will know your state's laws regarding will challenges, and may increase your chances of success.

Illinois Laws on Wills

A valid will can nominate someone to manage your estate and detail how your property should be distributed when you die. In Illinois, wills must comply with the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which address requirements such as the age and mental condition of the person making the will. If your will doesn't meet these requirements, it may be declared invalid, and your estate will be distributed according to state law.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Mississippi Estate Inheritance Laws

If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property ...

A Self-Made Last Will & Testament in Oregon

If you're an Oregon resident, you can execute a valid self-made last will and testament, provided you adhere to the ...

Kentucky Heir Law Concerning Grandchildren

The laws governing Kentucky wills allow you to name any person or organization as an heir to your estate, including ...

What Constitutes an Heir?

Your "heirs" are your relatives. You may not like all of them, but if you die without leaving a will, chances ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED