How Do You Stop a Sibling from Stealing an Inheritance?

Can a sibling steal your inheritance
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The death of a parent can be emotionally trying, especially if the passing was unexpected. It can also be a test of your patience if there are complicated estate issues to sort out.

If the parent does not have a will, there may be questions about which sibling should inherit what. This gets complicated fast. State law can define siblings’ rights after parents’ deaths, explains a recent article from Yahoo!, “Can a Sibling Take Your Inheritance?”

An estate planning attorney can be a valuable resource, regardless of the size of the estate.

When a parent dies and there are multiple siblings, what they can inherit depends on a few factors:

  • Did the parent leave behind a will, or were trusts created?
  • Is there a surviving spouse who can inherit?
  • What are the state’s inheritance laws?

For the most part, state inheritance laws give precedence to a surviving spouse ahead of any children. Some states grant children the legal right to inherit from a parent’s estate, even if they were not included in the will. However, most states allow parents to exclude children from their will, which can block them from inheriting anything.

How does a will determine siblings’ rights after the death of a parent? The will lets the person making the will specify how they want their assets to be distributed upon death. The will, once deemed valid by the court, serves as the basis for dividing the estate.

If both parents died simultaneously, their estate would be divided among siblings according to the terms of the will.

Estate planning becomes more complex when there are children from multiple marriages with different parents. Whether or not half-siblings receive the same inheritance as full-siblings depends on state law.

Without a will, state inheritance laws generally rely on a kinship order. In New Mexico, the first $30,000 in assets plus one-quarter of the remaining assets which are not jointly owned go to the surviving spouse first. The remainder is then distributed among any bloodline children.

Are siblings entitled to see the contents of wills or trusts? Most states will permit the viewing of the will or trust documents if they are beneficiaries or heirs. However, if someone is not listed in the will or a trust as a beneficiary, they don’t have an automatic right to review these documents.

If a sibling doesn’t agree with the terms of a will, or the distribution of assets, they could challenge a will in probate court. They can also petition the court to ask for a larger estate share. For instance, if one sibling was the primary caregiver for many years, providing financial and health care support, they would ask the court to take this into consideration.

An estate battle based on the distribution of property by a deceased parent can be avoided by having good communication between parents and siblings about the parent’s estate plan and their wishes. An experienced estate planning attorney creates plans for families to address their unique issues, and this can preclude sibling rivalry, which can sometimes get worse, not better, as the years go by.

Reference: Yahoo! (November 30, 2022) “Can a Sibling Take Your Inheritance?”

Suggested Key Terms: Last Will and Testament, Trusts, Inheritance, Kinship, Property, Assets, Siblings, Surviving Spouse, Estate Planning Attorney, Primary Care Giver, Multiple Marriages, Executor