This is the first of a two-part blog series on the interaction of one person’s Will with another person’s Will (We will capitalize the word “Will” as a noun to differentiate it from the verb “will” to help avoid confusion). One of the most frequently asked questions we get regarding a person’s Will is how it might interact with someone else’s Will. This recently came up in the following scenario we will detail.
Example of How Wills Interact
First, a little diagram about the family:
Mother, Son, Grandson, and Granddaughter. In the beginning, all four are living.
- Mother’s Will leaves her entire estate to Son.
- Mother’s Will also directs that if Son predeceases her, the estate is to be divided among Son’s two children, Granddaughter and Grandson.
- Son’s Will gives his entire estate to granddaughter, disinheriting Grandson.
Then, Son dies first. Two years later, Mother dies. The question from Granddaughter: “Does Son’s Will (her father’s Will), which disinherits Grandson, act to also disinherit Grandson from Mother’s Will and estate?” Her thought is that the only reason Grandson might get anything from Mother’s estate is because Son died before Mother. And to her, that is not fair.
There are two possible outcomes:
- If Son’s Will acts to disinherit Grandson from Mother’s Will, then Granddaughter receives the full estate from Mother, as that is what would have happened if Son survived Mother, and on Son’s later death his estate would pass entirely to Granddaughter.
- If Son’s Will does not disinherit Grandson from Mother’s Will, then Grandson and Granddaughter equally split the share that would have gone to Son, their father, if he had survived his Mother.
The answer to this question is “NO” – Son’s disinheritance of Grandson does not affect the distribution of Mother’s estate per her Will. Mother’s Will and Son’s Will each stand on its own, without any interaction with the other’s Will.
Result of This Scenario
Mother’s Will stands on its own, as does Son’s Will. Son’s Will disinheriting Grandson has no control or bearing on how Mother’s Will allocates her estate assets. Maybe Mother disagrees with Son’s decision to disinherit Grandson. Maybe Mother wants Grandson to receive a portion of her estate at her death. Presumably, Mother is aware that Son predeceased her. If desired, she could have revised her Will to exclude Grandson. But she didn’t.
It does not matter in any way that if the order of their deaths had been reversed (if Mother had died first and Son died later), that Grandson would not have received anything from Mother’s estate at Son’s later death because Son had disinherited Grandson from his own estate.
The result of this situation is that Granddaughter equally shares Mother’s estate with her brother, Grandson.
Learn More About How Wills Work
Next week, we will look at a similar situation, but from a different angle. In that edition, we will look at the Wills of a married couple and how the Will of the first of the spouses to die impacts the Will of the second spouse to die.
If you have a question or concern regarding your or a loved one’s will, contact our estate planning lawyers for help.