Wills and Inheritance

Will devising home to testator's four children and his widow that allowed her to "remain" in the home "for as long as she desires" gave her a tenancy in common interest with protection from removal by partition

In an older case that came to my attention, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that a will that gave a widow the right to "remain" in the home "for as long as she desires" did not create a life estate when her interest was shared with the decedent's four children. Hershman-Tcherepnin v. Tcherepnin, 891 N.E.2d 194 (Mass...

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Statutory share statute gives surviving spouse a portion of the estate of the decedent

Applying the terms of a long-existing state statute, the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts affirmed that a second spouse could take 1/3 of her deceased husband's estate when he failed to rewrite his will after his second marriage and his will had left his entire estate to his first wife. ...

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Lease cannot transfer landlord's right to receive rents to his daughter after his death because it is a testamentary transfer that does not comply with the formalities needed to create a will

The MIssissippi Supreme Court held that a lease provision cannot transfer the landlord's power to receive rents to his daughter after his death because that effectuates a testamentary transfer that must comply with the statute of wills to be valid, including all formalities such as two witnesses. Estate of Greer v. Ball, 218 So. 3d 1136 (Miss. 2017). Read more about Lease cannot transfer landlord's right to receive rents to his daughter after his death because it is a testamentary transfer that does not comply with the formalities needed to create a will

Fee simple absolute found despite language of "in trust" and "for the uses, purposes" of the YWCA

In a standard application of traditional estates doctrine, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has found a fee simple absolute despite language in the grant to the YWCA stating that the property was given "in trust, nevertheless, for the uses, purposes and trusts aforesaid." Young Women's Christian Ass'n, Inc. of Boston, Inc. v. Young Women's Christian Ass'n of Philadelphia, Inc., 90 Mass. App. Ct. 1119, 2016 WL 7162737 (Table) (Mass. 2016).

Traditionally any language in a conveyance of a fee...

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Heirs under intestacy statute include adopted children

In a decision one might think was unnecessary today, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the "children" who inherit under state intestacy statutes include adopted children. Fiduciary Trust Co. v. Wheeler, 132 A.3d 1178, 2016 ME 26 (Me. 2016). The issue was raised because an earlier court decision interpreting the decedent's will had held that a separate clause leaving property to the...

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New York law protects inheritance rights of children conceived after the death of their biological parents

New York state has adopted a statute that defines procedures for ensuring that children conceived after the death of their biological parents can inherit property, receive Social Security survivor benefits, and benefit from trusts established for them. The law applies to  ova or sperm that are stored for use after the death of a biological parent, usually when that parent knows his or her lifespan is limited. The law requires a written declaration of the purpose for which the biological material was stored, recording of the document in public records, and requires the...

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Will of real estate may be governed by the law of the situs of the property rather than the decedent's domicile at death

The traditional rule is that title to real property is determined by the whole law of the situs of the property, meaning both the substantive law of the situs and its choice-of-law rules. Thus title is determined by whatever law would be applied at the situs. This rule has been rejected in some cases in recent years because personal property on death is determined by the law of the domicile of the decedent and if different rules are applied to real property located elsewhere and personal property, the decedent's wishes may be ignored or perverted. However, many courts adhere to the...

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Ambiguous "survivor" reference creates a tenancy in common rather than a joint tenancy

A deed granting an interest to two siblings (Roger & Dana Waid) "or the survivor" was interpreted as created a tenancy in common rather than a joint tenancy. Young v. Waid, 2012 WL 2947590, (W.Va. 2012). Following the death of Roger, Dana would have had a 100 % interest in the property if they held as joint tenants (because of her right of survivorship) but only a 50 % interest (with 50% held by Roger's heir or devisees) if they held as tenants in common. Applying an...

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More states recognize same-sex marriage

Within the last month or so, new states have recognized same-sex marriage. They are Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota. All did so legislatively. Del. Code, tit. 13, §§101 to 122, as amended by 2013 Del. HB 75 (May 8, 2013); R.I. Gen. Laws §§15-1-1 to 15-1-5, as amended by 2013 R.I. Pub. Laws 4 (2013 R.I. HB 5015); Minn. Stat. §§517.01 to 517.09, as amended by 2013 Minn. Sess. Law Serv., ch. 74 (H.F. 1054) (May 14, 2013). Internationally, recent additions to the list include France, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

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European Union dispute about inheritance rights of children

Both Great Britain and the United States have long traditions of letting individuals  write wills to determine who owns their property when they die. Those laws are tempered by statutes protecting the rights of spouses to some portion of the decedent's estate. But both countries allow parents to disinherit their children. See Estate of Max Feinberg, 2009 WL 3063395 (Ill. 2009)(lawful to refuse to leave property to grandchildren because they married non-Jews). However, most other countries in Europe...

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