Kindred of the Half-Blood: Not a Harry Potter Book
It is no longer uncommon for probate and estate litigation attorneys to come across “blended families” that are comprised of half-blood relatives. What many people, including some lawyers, do not know until they encounter such a situation is that in an “intestate estate” (i.e., when someone dies without a will), the general rule is that half-blood relatives have the same rights to inherit from a relative as a whole-blood relative; however, there is a limitation on this right. Half-blood relatives do not have a right to an inheritance from their deceased half-blood relative to the extent the source of the assets owned by his or her deceased half-blood relative came from the line of the family that is not their own direct line. We see this issue arise most often in the case of half-blood siblings.
For example, if two sisters have two different fathers but the same mother, both half-sisters will be able to inherit all of the assets the other one may have acquired from their (common) mother’s side of the family when the other one dies without a will. They will also be able to inherit an “intestate share” of anything the half-sibling acquired on his or her own as if they were a full sibling (more on this below). They will not, however, have a right to inherit anything that can be traced back to a gift or inheritance from the (separate) father’s line of the family.
More specifically, in Washington state, the “Kindred of the Half-Blood” doctrine, which is codified at RCW 11.04.035, states that half-blood relatives “shall inherit” the same share of an estate as if they were “whole blood” with one exception: a half-blood relative shall not inherit property from a decedent if the decedent received the property “by descent, devise, or gift” from a relative to whom the surviving half-blood relative is not related.
In addition to whether someone is a whole or half-blood relative, the “intestate share” will be determined, among other things, by whether the deceased was married, had children, or has parents that are still living. An analysis often has to be done on whether assets that are part of the intestate estate are “community property” or “separate property.” It is only after knowing the full legal relationship of the parties, who survived them, and whether the assets are community or separate in nature that the correct share of someone’s intestate inheritance can be determined. Notably, it does not matter whether a relative is whole or half-blood if they are provided for in the will — barring exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article, they will be entitled to what the decedent left them in his or her will.
If you have questions regarding claims on an inheritance, contact a member of the Stokes Lawrence Trust & Estate Litigation practice.