If my recently deceased father left his children an account with money that he inherited from his parents, can his spouse take a portion of that money if she wants to?

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If my recently deceased father left his children an account with money that he inherited from his parents, can his spouse take a portion of that money if she wants to?

Asked on November 4, 2012 under Estate Planning, Wisconsin

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This depends on how your father left the account to his children and Wisconsin law.  In general, bank accounts pass outside an estate IF the children were either listed as owners of the account or listed as beneficiaries on a "pay on death" (POD) or "transfer on death" (TOD) account.  If the account was not listed in these ways, it will pass according to your father's will or, if he had no will, according to the Wisconsin statute of descent and distribution.

You can ask the bank what happens to the account, and they should be able to tell you.  You can also check with a lawyer in your father's state (I assumed it is Wisconsin) to see what assets a spouse is entitled to receive. 

Every state permits a spouse to receive some assets no matter what the will states.  In other words, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse (unless they sign an agreement to allow it). Each state handles this differently, and you will have to speak with someone in your father's state to find out exactly what his spouse is entitled to receive.


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