Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

I live in Pennsylvania. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We both have children from a prior marriage. None together.

Everything we have (house, cars, possessions) we acquired during our marriage.

My husband had an insurance policy before we married which he increased right after we married.

I am not worried about the insurance policy. I am worried that since we do not have a will I will have to share everything (home, possession) with his children.

What are my legal rights and how can I protect myself from losing or having to share half of everything if my husband dies without a will with his children.

Asked on 4/22/16, 3:02 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Retired from practice of law

Yes, you will have to share everything with his children. They have a right to a portion of his estate. Even with a will, unless he disinherits them without your unduly influencing him, they have such a right. Your children have a similar right to inherit from you.


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* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 4/22/16, 5:58 pm

I agree with Attorney Jacobson but you and your husband desperately need some estate planning and thetime to do that is now.

Some caveats here ... you indicate you and your husband acquired stuff after your marriage together. What stuff and how is it titled? Many things are non-probate assets like joint checking accounts, jointly owned real estate with right of survivorship (called a tenancy-by-the-entireties in Pennsylvania, life insurance and retirement benefits. For real estate owned as tenancy-by-the-entireties, it passes automatically to the survivor at the moment of death. Same for the other beneficiary designated not-probate assets. So if neither of you have a will, the surviving spouse only has to share probate assets with the biological children of the deceased spouse.

It is important that you and your spouse sit down with an estate planning attorney who can review your assets and goals. Planning can provide that your assets will pass as per your wishes, not the state intestacy laws. For example, who is the beneficiary of your husband's life insurance policy? What all do you and your husband own? It could be that husband makes a will dividing insurance policy between you and his children and not leaving them anything else in his will. Or maybe giving them the entire insurance policy. However, this all needs to be spelled out and explained in the will which is why you and your husband both need to see an estate planning attorney. If the husband will not go, then you need to see one. You also need to know what you own, how it is titled and whether it is probate or non-probate. If its non-probate and you are the survivor then it will not have to be shared. Just make sure your spouse dies before you.

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Answered on 4/23/16, 1:58 pm

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