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As my father's only child, can I be disinherited by his will and that of my step-mother?

Boston, MA |

I only learned of my disinheritance a couple of weeks ago, after my step-mother passed. I was not estranged from my father and step-mother. However, I was completely omitted from any mention in either of their wills. I was not informed of my father's will 4 years ago. I assumed that he left everything in the first instance to his wife. My cousin informed me that I was disinherited and sent me copies of both wills recently. Also, my step-mother changed her will about a year ago and left part of her estate to a stranger.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Your step-mother can leave her assets to anyone she wants. She did not have to leave anything to you. Your father did not have to leave anything to you either. His Will could have left everything to his wife, or they may have had mostly jointly owned property that passed automatically to your step-mother. If you were completely left out of your father's Will, you might be able to challenge it, but if he specifically did not leave anything to you, then there is little chance of success. The passage of time is also a problem. If you think someone did something wrong or the Wills shown to you are forged or fraudulent, then you should see an attorney right away. The way the Wills are written is important, you may want an attorney to review them and explain the actual facts to you.

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  2. I am sorry for your loss. With respect to your father, yes he can disinherit you. However, he has to have said that specifically in his Will. If he did not, you can contest the Will. Although, it sounds like the Will was not probated. You would need to file a petition to probate the Will if he had any assets worth probating. If all his assets were titled jointly with his wife, then there was no need to probate his estate. You are not an heir and have no standing with respect to your father's wife. However, if you think that she may have been coerced into signing the Will that you now have, and you think that you may be a beneficiary under a former Will, you would need to produce that Will in order to contest her current Will. You might want to set up a meeting with a Probate attorney. Good Luck.

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and have an office in Reading.. My practice is focused in the areas of elder law, estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.


  3. This is potentially a complicated fact pattern. As to the general question, can you be disinherited, the answer is "yes." Whether you've actually been "disinherited" is a bit more complicated, as the other answers suggest - it has to be knowing, and even then, if there were undue influence, there might be cause for a challenge.

    However, if all assets of your father were jointly titled with your stepmother, there are no probate assets, and nothing to pass by will. Your stepmother can "accidentally" disinherit you. You should be willing to spend a little money to talk with a probate attorney if this is a significant issue for you.
    Good luck!

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