Siblings’ rights after parents’ death

siblings' rights watching photo


The death of one’s parents comes with severe physical, emotional, and psychological trauma for you and your siblings. It can also open the floodgates to disputes between you and your siblings. Such issues over siblings’ rights pertain to who inherits what and who administers the estate. Will interpretation, will fraud, and who owns the house among others are other issues that arise after parent’s death.

It is important to understand your siblings’ rights after the death of your parents. Firstly, let’s discuss the probate process.

Probate Process:

When your last living parent dies, their estate generally passes through a court process known as probate. This is so unless your parents made other arrangements. Such an arrangement includes one’s parents establishing a trust. Another exception is if your parent’s estate has a net worth of less than $20,000. Then, a more straightforward probate process applies without court appearances.

If your parents named a sibling as executor in their will, the executor administers the estate. The expectation is that they carry out the wishes of the parents after their death. If there is no will in the probate process, the court names an administrator or administrators.

Probate Assets:

Probate assets extend to all real, personal, and tangible properties of the parents, which the probate process can distribute to heirs. They include houses, cars, and boats, jewelry; stocks, bonds, and debentures; and funds in their bank accounts. Life insurance policies and gratuities from retirement accounts specifically name children as beneficiaries. In that case, those children will receive extra funds from these sources. 

The following are not probate assets:

  • Real estate held with the “right of survivorship” 
  • joint bank accounts with the “right of survivorship.”
  • Life insurance policies go to the listed beneficiary(ies).
  • Retirement accounts go to the listed beneficiary(ies).
  • Annuities go to the listed beneficiaries.

Also, assets owned in trust generally are not part of the probate estate. 

Siblings’ rights to inherit

Under a will:

It’s common for parents to leave the bulk of their estate to their child or children. In some states, the law entitles children to a share of their parent’s estate, even if their parents’ will excluded them Parents can still disown any of their children from inheriting in their will.

Where the last surviving parent dies and leaves a will designating sharing of the real property, the properties will be inherited based on the last desires of the parent, as disclosed in the will.

Even if a parent disowns their child in their Will, the child may still have the right to contest the Will. This is because the child remains an interested party to the will.

Without a will:

However, where the parents died without will, that is, intestate, the state intestacy law determines the distribution of the estate. Provisions of these state laws are different. In California, the intestate succession laws (California Probate Code §§6400-6455) control sharing of your parents’ estate property situated in California.

If your parents died intestate, the intestate property normally passes in the following priorities:

  1. Spouse
  2. The children or grandchildren
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings (and children of deceased siblings)

Generally, where both parents died without will, the rule is that the division of the dead parents’ wealth is on an equal basis among the siblings. It doesn’t matter if the siblings are of full blood or half-brother. The siblings’ rights are equal.

Sometimes, this may not be the case.  Instances arise where the eldest of the children seeks more, or maybe a sibling with medical issues would want more from the parents’ wealth.

Siblings’ rights to apply for administration

Where the parents died intestate, that is, without writing a will, any adult child interested in managing the estate can join in applying for letters of administration. The grant of letters of administration causes the naming of the adult child as an administrator of the parent’s estate. Usually, the law requires two or three siblings to apply jointly or with a relative of the parents to apply for letters of administration.

There is a requirement that whoever applies for letters of administration must give notice of such application to all other siblings. The reason is that the other siblings are “interested” parties. The other siblings has a right to object or protest the application of the siblings as administrators.

Siblings’ rights to sue for inheritance:

Even when the parents have died and left a will, each child can sue to challenge the will. This is especially the case when a sibling feels that their brother or sister manipulated the deceased parent into changing the Will or that the parents lacked mental capacity to make the will.

There are two main ways to challenge an inheritance: contesting the will or making a home provision claim. When you contest a will or trust as invalid, you are alleging that the will has no valid signature or its content is questionable and that the deceased wanted something else or that the testator lacked mental capacity. A “home provision claim” is when you claim that the will or trust failed to make or made inadequate provisions for someone who was under the care of the deceased.

If the challenge to the will is successful in court, the court will declare the will invalid. Where it is a home provision claim, the court can make a few alterations to your will. The court may also distribute the estate in favor of the eligible persons.

Siblings’ rights to live in or sell the parent’s House:

One of the basic assets parents leave behind is the house or house. The house is also valuable because it contains lots of memories to the children.

If a parent dies and leaves a house for their children, they can decide to sell or retain the building. If they decide to sell the house, they may partition the house to sell. Each sibling can then decide to sell his part or retain the premises.

Where the children decide to retain the premises, siblings’ rights include siblings who are still living in the house can remain and live there as before the death of their parents. Where, however, the will gave the house to any person, the children ought to respect the wishes of the deceased parent.

Right to information:

If there is a will or trust and your name appears in the will as a beneficiary, you’re going to get a copy of that will or trust. That is to say, if you are a beneficiary or an executor under a will, the law entitles to get a copy of the will after the death of your parents. If you are not a beneficiary, you may not get a copy of the will as of right.

Personal representatives of the estate have a duty to inform you reasonably about the running of the estate. Where they fail to do so after you make reasonable demands for information, you can apply to court to compel the personal representatives to give you the requisite information.

You are also entitled to receive accounts regularly. The account is expected to lay out all the transactions concerning the estate, all incomings and outgoings, expenses, and monies due to be distributed to the beneficiaries. 

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