Seattle, WA asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Washington

Q: If a person named in a will legally changes their name are they still eligible to be able to collect?

My adopted brother is named in my parents will. It was written when he and I were babies. My dad has passed and my mom is close behind. My "brother" has renounced the family and has legally changed his name to his birth mother's name. There isn't really anything to get, no money, real estate, etc. Just debt.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Fowlerville, MI

A: First of all you don't 'inherit' debt. If there is more debt than asset I generally recommend against bothering with probate, and let the creditors scrabble for the scraps.

Secondly, the fact that someone has legally changed their name doesn't impact the bequest in a will. If I name a daughter and she gets married she still is my beneficiary so long as she is CLEARLY identified in the document. "My Son x" works even if the son changes his name. If son x were ADOPTED by someone else, then that may change, but a mere name change doesn't impact things.

If he REALLY wanted to 'divorce' himself from the family, then he could voluntarily renounce his inheritance, but again, that seems not to be an issue if there is nothing.

If you have questions or are unsure what you should do -- consult with a local probate attorney ASAP to be sure you don't make a mis-step here!

-- This answer is offered for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney/client relationship.

I am licensed to practice in Michigan only. Please seek competent local legal help if you feel you need legal advice

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