Life is all about changes. As a result, the family, a person starts with may not mirror the family they have established at the time of their death. For example, an individual may have a new spouse but have adult children from a previous marriage. In this scenario, many issues can arise if the will and estate documents are not solid.
The Outdated Will
By conventional standards, a will is outdated when it no longer reflects the current life of the person it is prepared for. However, in terms of the law, if the will has not been revoked or replaced, it still stands. This scenario can be especially problematic when the deceased re-marries after their will is prepared.
For example, assume the deceased listed their adult children as the heirs to their property and did not add their new spouse upon remarriage. The outdated will would likely be followed, and the property would be awarded to the children.
State Law Can Prevail
The laws in your local state can majorly affect estate battles that involve new spouses and children from previous relationships. If there was no will or estate plan in place, the estate is typically settled based on state guidelines. For example, in some states, after any debts have been settled, the estate may be split up between the spouse and the children.
However, if either party has documentation that supports their claim that they should be entitled to more than their share, they can present it to a judge for review. These contested scenarios often take longer to settle and can be complex.
Blended Family Dilemmas
Another complex scenario is when the new spouse of the deceased has children from a previous relationship that lived in the same home. In this situation, state law will once again have influence. For instance, if the new spouse can prove that the deceased played a significant role in the children's financial well-being, they may be able to have them included in the estate delegation.
A new spouse can also argue that their children are entitled to a portion of the estate even if this dynamic does not exist. An attorney is beneficial to ensure everyone receives their fair share.
Whether you are the adult child or the new spouse, if you are in a situation where the will was not properly finalized, the importance of speaking with an attorney cannot be understated. For more information, contact a local estate litigation lawyer.