Some of my clients have wanted to include their daughters-in-law or sons-in-law in their Wills or Trusts. For people who want their in-laws to inherit, it is important to include them, by name, in any estate plan because under the inheritance laws in-laws have no legal right to inherit from you any more than your neighbor or friend would. In the case of including the in-laws, I have suggested that my clients include the clause, “so long as he/she was married to my child at the time of my death or, if my child predeceased me, at the time of my child’s death.” This contemplates cutting off any inheritance by your child’s spouse after a divorce.
What is more common; however, is clients who want to make sure that their daughters-in-law or sons-in-law DO NOT inherit any money from them. That’s easy, because if you don’t include them, by name, in a Will or Trust, they have no right to inherit.
Some clients want assurances even more specific. They want to be sure that any moneys they leave to their child won’t become payable to the spouse if their child gets divorced. While there is very little that my clients can do in their documentation to prevent this, there is something that their child can do.
I TELL MY CLIENTS TO TELL THEIR CHILDREN THIS: In most states, marital or community property excludes inherited money EXCEPT where the person who inherits it puts it into a joint asset (jointly named bank account or jointly held real estate or other property) with their spouse. Once they jointly title an asset, most states presume that a gift of ½ of the inherited money has been made.
Accordingly, it is very important TO KEEP INHEREITED MONEY IN YOUR OWN SEPARATE NAME. Then if a subsequent divorce occurs, the money that Mom, Dad, or Grandparent left you is protected from any claim by your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. While you may not be able to envision a divorce now, we know from statistics that not all marriages are forever. Protect the assets you inherit from your loved ones by keeping them in your sole name.