Prof. Joanna Grossman Comments in SmartMoney Magazine on Intestate Shares

Joanna Grossman, Professor of Law & Associate Dean for Faculty Development, was quoted in the following SmartMoney Magazine article.

Before Your Parents Say ‘I Do’ Again
By Brad Reagan
SmartMoney Magazine
March 19, 2009

Kids Have No Rights
The average American, of course, figures people should have the right to leave their property to whomever they want. In fact, “freedom of testation” was one of the key ways the newly independent colonies departed from English common law, which guaranteed the kids at least a piece of the estate. But the founding fathers kept in place a tradition requiring that the surviving spouse receive some sort of financial support. That concept evolved into what’s now known as the elective share, which guarantees the surviving spouse a set percentage of the estate. Most states offer a third of the estate, but some go as high as half. (Georgia is the only state that doesn’t stipulate that the surviving spouse get at least some dough.) Furthermore, according to Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman, over the past few decades states have been awarding bigger “intestate” shares-the portion of the estate awarded to the surviving spouse when there’s no will. Meanwhile, American parents can disinherit their kids entirely if they see fit. “When it comes right down to it, kids have no rights,” says Ron Aucutt, a McLean, Va., attorney. The reasoning is that the spouse contributes to the growth of the family’s assets, whereas the children only subtract from them by requiring food to eat, clothes to wear and, in some cases, college tuition to squander.