Can a wife without her husbands’s surname have difficulties with a Will?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a wife without her husbands’s surname have difficulties with a Will?

My friend’s were married in China; the husband is American and the wife is Chinese; they live in the U.S. The wife kept her Chinese surname. They have had a Will drawn up and it is notarized. Someone told my friend that there will be a problem with the will because her surname is different than her husband’s surname. However, I have seen the Will which was drawn up in the U.S., the marriage certificate from China and everything is certified, notarized. Why someone would give them advice that I believe is completely wrong? Is there any foreseeable problems because they have different surnames?

Asked on April 18, 2019 under Estate Planning, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, there is absolutely no legal requirement that a wife have the same surname as her husband for inheritance or probate purposes, and no reason why having a different surname would pose problems with a will. Nowadays, it's hardly uncommon for a wife to not have the same surname as her husband, and many thousands (at least!) of wills are probated each and every year when the surviving spouse has a different surname than the deceased spouse. Indeed, many wills leave assets to non-spouses (friends, unmarried significant others, etc.) where the names will not match. Whomever advised your friend is incorrect--as for why they gave such wrong advice is anyone's guess.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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