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Actor Mickey Rooney disinherits children in final will

Every St. Paul family has disputes from time to time. For some, the disputes can linger for years and lead to a permanent change in the relationship between the family members. In these circumstances, individuals may wonder what inheritance issues may arise under estate planning law, and whether some heirs are automatically entitled to a share in the distribution of property of a deceased family member.

Typically, when a person dies and leaves behind a spouse, the surviving spouse cannot be completely disinherited from receiving the deceased person's property. Even if the deceased person's will disinherits the spouse, the surviving spouse can claim what is known as an elective share, which is a portion of the deceased person's estate. Then again, if the surviving spouse agreed in writing to accept less than the elective share provided under state law, the will may be carried out.

Children, on the other hand, may generally be disinherited in a person's will. There is a distinction that is made under the law, however, from situations where a person intentionally disinherits a child, from situations when the person forgot to include a child in the distribution of property. Accordingly, the deceased person's intent must be made clear.

A good example of this occurred recently with the estate of Mickey Rooney, who had signed his will just weeks before his recent death. Rooney left his estate, which was valued at $18,000, to a stepson who had served as his caretaker. Rooney had apparently lost much of his wealth due to financial mismanagement by another one of his stepsons.

Rooney disinherited his 8 children, and he reached an agreement with an estranged wife where the wife was to receive Rooney's Social Security benefits and his pension earnings. Accordingly, assuming the will is upheld and the distributions take place according to the will, Rooney's case illustrates the rights of surviving spouses and children under the law and under a person's will.

Source: NBC Connecticut, "Mickey Rooney leaves $18,000 estate to stepson," Anthony McCartney, April 10, 2014

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