2009 Changes in Inheritance Statutes

In June 2009, the Vermont legislature changed rules involving how a person's estate is distributed after death if there is no will. The previous laws followed the centuries old common law of inheritance with dower rights for women and curtesy rights for men. They were confusing, in that there were different rules for real estate and personal property, and dependant on how many children a person had. The new rules are more logical and more clear: First, the surviving spouse receives all of the deceased spouse's estate, if all of the deceased spouse's children are the natural children of the surviving spouse. If the deceased spouse had children from another relationship, his or her children take 1/2 of the estate, and the surviving spouse takes 1/2. If a decedent does not have a spouse, the decedent's children, and grandchildren of deceased children receive the estate. If there is a deceased child, his or her children will only receive the deceased child's share. If there are no spouses and no children, the decedent's assets will go to parents; if no parents, then to grandparents, if no parents or grandparents, then to siblings, if no siblings, then to aunts and uncles, and then finally to cousins. Another change solves a problem that had never been addressed before by the legislature: the law now voids provisions in wills to spouses if the will was executed prior to a divorce. In the past, if a person got a divorce and neglected to change his or her will, his or her former spouse would recieve what was provided for in the deceased former spouse's will. The new statutes also void transfers for no consideration that are used to defeat a spouse's inheritance. Finally, the statutes provide that heirs who are "half blood" are considered to be the same status as "full blood."

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