EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.
Q: My mother left her entire estate to my brother. Isn’t every child entitled to a share?
A: Our 8-year-old daughter recently learned that on the day she was born, the governor of Oklahoma signed a proclamation declaring the date to be officially named for her. She found the proclamation in one of the many scrapbooks her mother diligently maintains. The discovery lit her face up with the expectation of celebrity, and she spent several minutes proudly declaring her historic importance. She beamed with the sudden realization that, like Columbus, the Ground Hog and all the presidents, she has her own day — one on which all mankind should honor her every year.
But the coronation she began, being based on a false assumption, was short-lived. We explained to her that the proclamation, though very nice, did not establish an annual day in her honor. It merely named the specific date, in the year of her birth, for her. She objected, pointing out that the governor proclaimed the date to be “now and forever known” by her name. When she finally realized that the date of her birth includes a year, and that the particular combination of day and year will never again recur — never, ever — she deflated to her normal self. Don’t worry. That normal self is pretty self-assured.
Sometimes adult children base future hopes of inheritance on an assumption that is equally false. Some even wait their parents out, believing they will eventually inherit enough wealth to support themselves without the necessity of a lifetime of work. But guess what? Children don’t automatically inherit from parents.
If your parents die without wills, their estates will be divided among their heirs at law, which usually, but not always, means equal division among their children. But a parent’s will may disinherit one or more children, or change the percentage of the estate left to each child. If a parent’s will specifically disinherits a child, or leaves one child a million dollars and another child a single roller skate, such is the way it will go.
This can be a hard pill to swallow — sort of like finding you have no personal annual day of tremendous honor when you thought you did. But it’s the truth. None of us has an absolute right to inherit from a parent who, in a valid will, declares otherwise. Such is life.