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

UPDATED: Oct 25, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

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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