How to handle a Will from 15 years ago with a change in life circumstances?

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How to handle a Will from 15 years ago with a change in life circumstances?

15 years ago post-divorce, my brother had Will leaving all to his 2 kids. Then 3 years later he remarried and was happily married for 12 years. No new Will. I am executor on the Will. What needs to happen here to make it fair for all parties?

Asked on October 25, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Fairness does *not* matter in wills--a will is generally enforceable as per its plain terms, which means that for the most part, only the people named in the will inherit. The exception, fortunately for your brother's widow, is for spouses: in most states, including Pennsylvania, a spouse can only be disinherited deliberately, not accidentally, and in certain specific circumstances: for example, if there was a pre-nup which disclaimed any right to inherit. Other than as the above, the widow should have the right to elect against the will and get a a 1/3 distribution of the estate; the rest will be distributed as per the will. However, since adjudicating and implementing this correctly is not necessarily easy--especially if the children choose to fight it--you are recommended to consult with a local trusts and estates attorney who can help you do your duty as executor. Good luck.


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