Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

We live in PA - my father died and we found his will stating that everything be left to his wife, my mother. However, they divorced and there is no other will. It still goes to Mom - right? I have one brother that thinks it goes to the kids not Mom. Please advise. Thank you.

Asked on 2/18/13, 4:26 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Hillary Snyder Hillary N. Snyder, Esquire

First of all, I am sorry for your loss. Second, I am sorry to tell you, your brother may be right.

Depending on when the will was signed and assuming that there was a divorce decree, your mother may not receive under your father's will. If there was a divorce decree, your mother may be treated as having predeceased your father, and therefore your father's assets would be distributed according to what your father's will says happens if your mother does not survive your father. Additionally, if your mother is named as the executor of his will, she should be treated as having predeceased him and therefore the successor executor named in his will should be appointed.

This also may hold true for life insurance policies and other assets for which your father forgot to remove your mother as the named beneficiary.

I know this is a lot of information, and you probably have more questions, so please do not hesitate to contact me.

I give free consultations, so you have nothing to lose. Please feel free to contact me at 412.327.7335.

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Answered on 2/18/13, 5:06 pm
Jeff Fleming Hippo, Fleming & Pertile Law Office

Please accept my condolences for your loss. I know this is a difficult time for you and dealing with the complexities of an estate administration adds extra weight to your burden.

This may or may not be the answer you are looking for, but Pennsylvania has a law that presumes a provision in a person�s Will that leaves part of the estate to his or her spouse becomes ineffective upon divorce. In your case, this means that your mother would not inherit under the will.

Keep in mind, however, that any jointly owned property would automatically become your mother's. The will only applies to probate property.

I would be happy to answer any follow up questions. Feel free to contact me at your convenience. 814.943.5500

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Answered on 2/19/13, 5:24 am

It depends on when your parents were divorced and when the will was made. If your father made a will and then got divorced, divorce revokes any dispositions in favor of your mother. In such case, your mother would be presumed as dying before your father and his property would pass to the next beneficiary named in the will. If there is no other beneficiary, then it would pass via intestacy to any current spouse (if your father remarried and the spouse was alive and with your father at the time of his death) and his biological or adopted children.

If your parents divorced and your father made a will leaving all to your mother anyway, then in that case your mother would inherit it.

So, it sounds like in this instance your brother may be right. What I would suggest is that whichever of you is going to be personal representative that that person take the will and other relevant information to one of the above probate attorneys or a local probate attorney who practices in the county in which your father resided at the time of death and pay the attorney to review everything and give you an opinion.

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Answered on 2/19/13, 8:55 pm

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