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60s elderly spouses at lawyer office sign marriage contract

Will My Parent’s New Spouse Inherit Everything?

Law Offices of Kelton M. Burgess, LLC  Dec. 7, 2022

A wedding can be a happy occasion. However, even a happy wedding can lead to uncertainty regarding inheritance rights. If your parent has recently remarried, you may be wondering what happens to your inheritance rights. At the Law Offices of Kelton M. Burgess, LLC, we can help advise and guide you so that you can know what to expect moving forward. We serve Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area, so if you need advice, reach out today and schedule a consultation. 

Dying Intestate in Pennsylvania 

Dying intestate, or without a will, occurs when a person does not leave a formal document stating the final arrangements. These arrangements include funerals, burials, distribution of assets, and naming an executor of their estate.  

When someone dies intestate, the law establishes a process called intestate succession. Intestate succession refers to the order in which the next of kin can claim the deceased party’s assets. Succession goes in this order: 

  • Spouse 

  • Children 

  • Parents when there is no spouse or children. 

  • Siblings when there is no spouse, children, or parents. 

Please note that an intestate succession process requires probate. Probate is a legal proceeding in which the claiming parties must go to court to claim their rights over the deceased party’s assets officially. 

In probate, an administration (usually a relative) must manage the estate until the court assigns the ownership. The administrator must collect all financial records, property information, insurance policies, investments, and liabilities. The judge then rules on the division of assets according to the claiming parties’ inheritance rights. 

Pennsylvania Intestate Succession Law 

In the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, intestate succession law states the following: 

  • The assets subject to intestate succession are real estate (homes, apartments, land, and commercial property), cash, and personal property. Please note that bank accounts, investment funds, and insurance policies generally have named beneficiaries. As a result, the beneficiaries can claim these assets. 

  • In Pennsylvania, the spouse generally receives half of the estate. The remaining balance of the estate is divided among living relatives. Please note that descendants (children) are first in line. However, living parents can also claim a share of the estate. A spouse can only inherit the entire estate when there are no other living relatives. 

One common question you may have is, Will my parent’s new spouse inherit everything? 

The short answer is no. Even if a parent dies intestate, the spouse can only inherit the first $30,000 of the estate and half of the remaining balance. Children and parents may claim the other half of the estate.  

Please bear in mind that creditors’ claims must be settled before the estate can be officially distributed. Beneficiaries get what’s left over following debt repayment. 

Children’s Inheritance Rights 

Children inherit everything when there is no spouse or living parents. Children can also claim half of the estate when there is a living spouse, regardless of whether this spouse is their parent. Children should not expect to be awarded the entire estate if there is a living spouse. Nevertheless, children and a spouse can agree on the distribution of the assets outside of court. This agreement can accelerate the probate process.  

It is important to seek legal counsel from a licensed estate planning or probate attorney in the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. An estate planning attorney can go through the options available before the probate process.  

Finding the Right Legal Counsel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

At the Law Offices of Kelton M. Burgess, LLC, we strive to provide the best service. We work hard to protect our clients’ inheritance rights. We understand how valuable family assets are. That is why we do our utmost to ensure that preserving family property becomes the number one priority. 

If you have questions about your inheritance rights, call us today. Our legal advisors are standing by to help protect your inheritance rights.