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Can a parent in the state of New Jersey disinherit children?

Newark, NJ |

My father recently passed away and in the will it says " In event my wife , EXCUSE , predeceases me then I give and devise my residuary estate to equal share to my children . " What does this mean ? Does this mean the children only get something if the wife died before him ? Would this be a form of disinheriting a child ? Would it be worth the children time to contest it ? Also how is it determined how much the children would get anyway , if they were left out to collect nothing and everything was left to the wife ( not the mother of the children ) ?

I had out "xxxx--meaning the name of the wife-- but it corrected it and placed the word "excuse" for some reason?

Attorney Answers 3


Yes-your father could choose to leave everything to his spouse and not to his children.
Very sorry for your loss.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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In some states children have a right to elect against a will but in NJ only the spouse has elective share rights. In NJ a decedent has no obligation to leave anything to children. Nevertheless, a will that leaves everything to second wife very well could be subject to will contest. Depends on many circumstances. For instance if dad remarried in 1998, did a will in 1998 leaving half to wife and half to kids, did a will in 2005 saying the same thing, had a stroke in 2012 and right after the stroke and after the wife said she wouldn't care for dad unless he leaves his estate to wife, dad did a will disinheriting the kids, the circumstances might support a will contest by the kids

Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax. Visit and subscribe for free timely updates to be delivered to your inbox. Information on both Avvo and does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.

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Your father has the right to disinherit any or all of his children. The language you submitted indicates that his wife will take all if she survived him and his children will take nothing unless provided for elsewhere in the will. The assets of his estate will be inherited by his wife and on her passing disposed of per the terms of her will or rules of intestacy if she dies with out a will. She may or may not name you and your father's other children as beneficiaries of her will. If you think that his will was changed recently under suspicious circumstances or duress then you should seek the advice of an estate litigation attorney soon.

This answer is based on general legal principles only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the formation of a lawyer-client relationship. Any reader of this answer should not make decisions based upon in without first directly consulting with an attorney.

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