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Inheritance is not a birthright: Your estate plan is the law

When it comes to inheritances and estate plans, if the person who dies creates a legally valid estate plan, then this plan -- in conjunction with California law -- will dictate the dispensation of the estate. It doesn't matter if you're the wife, the son or the lover of the decedent, you are not entitled to receive anything that the estate plan and the law do not assign to you.

That said, some people have the "feeling" that they should receive more than the will or estate plan offers them. Whether these individuals are aware of it or not, this feeling is often tied to the ancient notion of "birthright."

What is birthright?

Birthright is an ancient biblical term that describes an individual's inherent inheritance rights based on bloodlines, the sex of the individual, the birth order of the individual and family ties.

Here are several definitions of birthright:

  • The assets or special privileges that an individual possesses -- or has the right to receive -- by virtue of his or her birth.
  • The special privileges or assets to which a first-born son is entitled.
  • Your inheritance rights by virtue of the family into which you've been born.

Inheritance isn't about birthright anymore

The traditional and ancient notions of "birthright" no longer work in modern society. That's because we have federal and state intestacy laws that govern the dispensation of estates belonging to individuals who die without a will. If your deceased family member has taken the time to complete a will and/or estate plan, this plan will dictate how the wealth and assets of the estate shall be distributed to others.

If no will is on file, intestacy laws will determine who receives what. If a family member's notion or feeling of what he or she should receive does not fall into alignment with the estate plan -- intestacy laws if no plan exists -- it is not likely that the individual will receive what he or she wants, no matter how much litigation is involved.

Learn more about intestacy law, California estate law and determine your legal right to inherit assets and money following the death of a close relative.

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