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Does anyone have a legal right to inherit from an estate? 

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2023 | Estate Planning

 People often develop a sense of entitlement toward the assets owned by others, especially those in their immediate families. For example, children generally assume that they will receive whatever property their parents own after they die. 

Those feelings of entitlement can often lead to complications after someone’s passing. The presumptive heir and named beneficiaries of a decedent could end up fighting over what they believe they should receive from the estate. In Washington, does anyone have the legal right to demand an inheritance from an estate?

The circumstances determine people’s rights

There is one relationship that guarantees a certain degree of inheritance rights in Washington. The state’s community property statutes ensure that the spouse of the decedent has a protected right of inheritance. Even if someone does not leave any property to their spouse in their estate planning paperwork, their spouse can still pursue a portion of their estate in probate court. 

Spouses are generally the only individuals with such directly protected rights. Under Washington law, children have a right of inheritance when someone dies without a will. However, if someone takes the time to create an estate plan, they can potentially choose to leave nothing for their children and other family members with the exception of their spouse. 

In general, it will be someone’s wishes as outlined in their estate plan, not their relationships, that will determine who inherits from their estate. Only in scenarios where people die without a will can relationships determine the right of inheritance. Learning the basics of Washington probate laws may benefit those wondering if they have the right to take legal action against an estate.