If your spouse or parent dies without including you in their will, you may rightly wonder if you have any inheritance rights. In Connecticut, the answer is yes for a surviving spouse but usually no for a child.
Surviving spouses have what is known as the right of election. This means that he or she can take an “elective share” equal to one third of the value of all property that would pass by will after the estate’s debts are paid. To put it more simply, a spouse can take whatever is provided to him or her by the will or, instead, can choose to take the elective share.
Notably, elective shares in Connecticut do not allow the surviving spouse to take a share of property that passes outside the will. Spouses can only take a share of the probate estate. So, if your spouse had a retirement account or life insurance policy that did not name you as the beneficiary, you would not be entitled to a share of that money because such assets pass independently of the probate estate.
Children are treated differently under Connecticut probate law. They are not automatically entitled to receive something from their parent’s estate. There is no legal obligation for a parent to include a child in their will, nor do children have a right of election. Unlike in some states, a child can be disinherited simply by their name being omitted from the will. The will does not need to say that the child is intentionally being left out.
If you wish to challenge your disinheritance by a parent, you must contest the will. Grounds for contesting the will include the following:
Undue influence or duress — This means your parent signed the will while being pressured or influenced by someone else, such as a sibling who told your parent lies about you or a caretaker convincing your parent not to leave you anything.
Diminished mental capacity — This means your parent was not of sound mind when signing the will. For example, they may have been heavily medicated or suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of authority — Parents can disinherit you only from the portion of the estate that they own. But parents sometimes disinherit a child from their and their deceased spouse’s shares of the estate. This might be accidental or intentional, but either way you can challenge it.
At Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, L.L.C. in Hamden and East Haven, Connecticut, we help surviving spouses exercise their elective share rights and we assist in bringing will contests when there are grounds to do so. To speak to one of our probate and estate lawyers about your situation, call 203-745-0942 or contact us online for a consultation.
Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, L.L.C. is located in Hamden, CT and serves clients in and around North Haven, Hamden, Waterbury, Bethany, Milford, Wallingford, Prospect, Woodbridge, Northford, Madison, Beacon Falls, Branford, Cheshire, North Branford, East Haven, Naugatuck, Meriden, Ansonia and New Haven County.
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