Property Exempt from Your Will

Property Exempt from Your Will

If you have a spouse or minor children, then a certain amount of household furniture, furnishings, appliances and automobiles in your name that are regularly used by you or members of your family are exempt from your will. This is called exempt property. If you have a spouse, your spouse gets this property. If you have no spouse, your children get it. Additionally, a spouse or minor children may get a family allowance.

Example: Donna dies with a will giving half her property to her husband and half to her grown son from a previous marriage. Donna's property consists of a $5,000 automobile, $5,000 in furniture and $10,000 in cash. Donna's husband may be able to get the car and the furniture as exempt property, and $6,000 as a family allowance. Then he and the son would split the remaining $4,000. (The son would get even less if the husband also claimed a spouse's share.)

In some states, one can avoid having property declared exempt by specifically giving it to someone in a will. If items are given to certain persons, those items will not be considered part of the exempt property. Cash kept in a joint or I/T/F bank account would go to the joint owner or beneficiary, and would not be used as the family allowance. If this may be an issue in your estate, you should check with a lawyer.