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My Parent Remarried.
Will Their Spouse Inherit Everything?

Jan. 26, 2022

Happy older family couple husband and wife sign legal paperYour mom or dad has remarried. Regardless of whether you are happy for your parent or not, you might be wondering what happens to your parent’s estate if they die before the new spouse. Wondering about it can put significant stress on your relationship with your parent and their new spouse, even under the best of circumstances.

Of course, if your parent has an estate plan, they can direct what they wish to leave to you, the new spouse, and anyone else. Generally, the questions arise when someone dies without a will, or intestate succession. In that case, you may feel most vulnerable about being left out of your parent’s legacy due to their remarriage.

The best way to assuage your worry is to understand the law regarding estate inheritance. Luvara Law Group LLC can help. We listen to our clients from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas, including Greensburg, Washington, Waynesburg, Uniontown, and New Castle, and then we make their voices heard. If you have questions about inheritance laws in Pennsylvania, we have answers.

What Happens if My
Parent Dies Without a Will?

If your parent dies without a will in Pennsylvania, payment of their debts and distribution of their estate assets will be handled using the law of intestate succession. The law establishes who inherits what when the decedent did not execute the documents that would have allowed them to express their own wishes.

An estate will be opened in the probate court, and since there was no will in which an executor would have been named, the judge will appoint someone to serve in that role to administer the estate, often the surviving spouse or an adult child of the decedent.

In probate, the decedent’s assets subject to probate will be inventoried, heirs — as dictated by intestate succession — will be identified, and creditors will be provided notice to file claims against the estate. Once debts are paid, the residual of the estate’s assets will be divided among the heirs.

What Is Pennsylvania’s
Intestate Succession Law?

Anything to which the decedent attached a title on death, a transfer on death, or a beneficiary will be given to the person designated. Examples include the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement account, the transfer of a bank account to a named individual, or the transfer of the title and ownership of a vehicle.

If the decedent had a living trust at the time of death, which means they transferred ownership of assets to the trust during their lifetime, those assets are not subject to probate. Nor are properties owned by the decedent and someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety. Tenancy by the entirety, reserved for married couples, provides that anything jointly owned when one spouse dies becomes the property of the surviving spouse. Such property is not subject to probate.

If the deed to the house your parent and the new spouse were living in was only in your parent’s name, that real property is subject to probate. The spouse does not automatically inherit the home unless their name is on the title to it.

If your parent is married at the time of death to someone who is not your parent, the surviving spouse inherits one-half of the estate, and you inherit the other half of the estate. If you have siblings who share the parent, you and your siblings inherit an equal division of your half of the value of the assets subject to probate. If a sibling predeceases the parent, their share will be divided equally among their children.

There Are Children’s Inheritance
Rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law protects the rights of children to inherit from a parent’s intestate estate, so long as they meet the definition of being a “legal” child of the decedent. Children legally adopted by the decedent enjoy the same legal status as their biological children; however, those never legally adopted, such as foster children or stepchildren, do not have an inheritance right. Biological children of your parent who were legally adopted by someone else also do not have inheritance rights.

If your parent had a child with someone out of wedlock and claimed the child or paternity was proven, that child inherits from the estate. Children your parent had with the new spouse or an unborn child carried by a spouse at the time of death also have inheritance rights.

Hiring an Experienced Probate Attorney

An experienced estate planning attorney, such as those with Luvara Law Group LLC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, can answer your questions about what happens with a parent’s estate following remarriage. We can also assist you with creating your own estate plan so your children never need to worry about their legacies.

Call our office now to schedule a consultation. We’re ready to listen to you.