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What Taylor Swift Gets Wrong About Inheritance and Estate Planning in “Anti-Hero"

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

American songwriter, Taylor Swift, is known for her catchy lyrics and sold-out concerts, but she isn't really sought after for estate planning information. In her song “Anti-Hero," she sings about disinheriting her family:

I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money

She thinks I left them in the will

The family gathers 'round and reads it

And then someone screams out

“She's laughing up at us from hell!"

Let's get some facts straight about estate and inheritance laws.

You Can't Inherit From Someone if You Kill Them

Every state has some form of a “slayer rule" or “slayer statute." The slayer statute generally refers to a state law that does not allow someone to inherit from the deceased person (called a “decedent) if they intentionally murdered the decedent. So if a daughter-in-law was guilty of murder, she could not benefit from the estate. And some states, such as Washington and Florida, have expanded their slayer statute to prohibit people from inheriting if they abuse or neglect older or disabled adults.

In-Laws May Not Initially Benefit From an Inheritance

Generally, in-laws do not benefit from your estate unless you make provisions for them in a will or trust. Inheritances are not marital property but separate property going to the beneficiary. Therefore, a mother could give money to her son, and the daughter-in-law could not claim it in a divorce settlement. But, if the son puts the inheritance money in a joint account with his spouse, then that inheritance becomes marital property.

And when the son dies, his inheritance (even if separate property) passes to his spouse and children.

If you do not want your son or daughter-in-law to inherit, you might consider setting up a living trust to benefit your child and their children. When your child dies, the trust assets go to your grandchildren. Trusts can be complex, so consult an estate planning attorney for legal advice.

There Is a Proper Way to Disinherit Someone

It is not enough to leave someone out of a will to disinherit them because that person may claim it was done by mistake. The best way is to add a disinheritance clause in your will that mentions them by name. A typical clause might be “I intentionally and purposefully make no provision for [name of daughter-in-law]." Avoid giving reasons because those reasons could be misinterpreted or subject to dispute. For example, it could get tricky if you disinherited a family member because they were not Christian, then they later became Christian.

In-Laws Can't Contest a Will

If you leave someone out of your will who might otherwise inherit under intestacy laws, they may have legal standing to challenge your will. Generally, family members such as children and direct descendants of the testator can file a will contest. In-laws lack this standing.

There are several reasons to challenge will, such as mistake, fraud, forgery, undue influence, and the testator lacking testamentary capacity. Will contests are rarely successful, especially if brought by an in-law.

What Taylor Swift Gets Right About Estate Planning

What Taylor Swift gets absolutely right is the family chaos that might ensue without proper estate planning. Check out her funny Anti-Hero official music video from time stamp 2:15 to 4:30.

You can avoid family squabbles by creating estate planning documents. Your loved ones will know your wishes, you can provide for your dependents, and your will streamlines your estate administration during probate.

Hopefully, people interested in getting their affairs in order aren't relying on pop stars but instead getting sound information from lawyers and FindLaw's Legal Forms and Services.

This article is not to attack Ms. Swift as she has many talents, but to instead highlight the finer points of estate laws. Instead of taking it personally, hopefully she can just “shake it off."

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