Most New York parents love their adult children, but some do not particularly care for their children's spouses. Sometimes a spouse can cause family disputes, which result in tension and breaks of familial bonds. Therefore, someone in the estate planning process may wish to exclude their sons-in-law or daughters-in-law from estate plans including their wills or trusts.
Because in-laws are not blood relatives, they are typically not included in wills anyway. Unless the child's spouse is specifically mentioned in the will, trust or other estate planning document, then he or she legally stands to inherit nothing. The children would be next in line to receive an inheritance. Even if a child were to die, his or her spouse still would not be legally entitled to receive anything. The inheritance would go to their children.
However, it is important to understand that in a roundabout way, the child's spouse could eventually inherit the parent's property indirectly. For example, if a parent wills property to an adult child, the child's spouse could end up with the property after the child dies, because a spouse is often an heir to the deceased spouse's estate.
How can a parent prevent this from happening? Through an irrevocable trust, an inheritance can stay out of a child's possession. A trustee could be designated to provide the child with financial support as needed, with the remainder of an inheritance going to another beneficiary.
The only family member who has a legal right to inherit property is a spouse. Through the use of various estate planning instruments, a person can tailor the distribution of their estate. An experienced estate planning attorney can help people ensure that upon their death, their estate will be distributed according to their wishes.
Source: NWI Times, "ESTATE PLANNING: Planning around a child's spouse," Christopher W. Yugo, April 13, 2013