Inheritance rights and laws vary by state and govern the rights of beneficiaries to inherit assets. Depending on the state you reside in, a surviving spouse, child, or grandchild may be able to claim an inheritance despite what is written in a will.
Usually, community property is property obtained by either spouse during the marriage. This includes income received from work, real estate purchased during the marriage with income from employment, and other real estate that a spouse gives to the community. Each spouse owns a one-half interest of the real estate. They have the right to dispose of their share in whichever way they choose. For example, a deceased spouse can choose to give his or her share of the community property to any individual they’d like and not necessarily to the surviving spouse. However, spouses may not give away the other spouse's portion of the community property. A provision in a prenuptial agreement may also alter a spouse's prerogative to distribute the property. Simply put, a spouse has the sole right to get rid of their separate property. A deceased spouse has the right to distribute their separate property and their share of the community property in a will. Arizona, California, Washington, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, and Alaska are all community property states. In Alaska, however, there must be a written agreement between spouses. The remaining states are common law states.
I Most common law states will allow for the surviving spouse to claim one-third of the deceased spouse's real estate. Despite what the deceased spouse puts in his or her will, the surviving spouse may make a claim to inherit the predetermined amount. A will would be carried out according to the decedent's liking if the surviving spouse already agreed in writing to accept less than the statutory amount or the surviving spouse never goes to court to claim his or her legal share. Inheritance rights of children and grandchildren are not as protected, however, but do vary by state.