Most parents who leave property to married children want to leave the property to their sons and daughters and not to their daughters and sons-in-law. In 2006 the Oregon Court of Appeals held that a married child’s inheritance from his mother was marital property subject to division on divorce with his spouse. It was up to the son to show his mother’s intent to leave the inheritance only to him. Even though the son’s mother never named the daughter-in-law in her will, the court held that the inherited property should be divided equally upon the son’s divorce.
On January 1, 2012, Oregon law changes so that property passing by gift, beneficiary designation or inheritance is not presumed to be intended for both the married child and his or her spouse. Although property left to a married child by inheritance is not presumed to be for both husband and wife, the court still has discretion to divide property in a manner that is just and equitable on divorce.
Oregon law also provides for a surviving spouse’s elective share upon his or her spouse’s death. Under the elective share it is still possible that a son-in-law or daughter-in-law could receive a share of an inheritance.
While you may be very close to your son-in-law or daughter-in-law, you may want to leave your property only to your son or daughter. If so, it is important that you state in your will that you intend the inheritance to be only for your son or daughter. With the change in law coming up in January, you should have your will reviewed by an attorney to make sure you are leaving your property as you intended.