Forced Share

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Forced share (also called elective share) refers to the amount state laws entitle a spouse or other person to regardless of what is in a will. Usually, forced share will refer to the amount a person will be able to receive when their spouse passes. They are termed forced shares because spouses cannot change the amount through a will as with intestacy laws. Instead, a person can either take what is in the spouse’s will or what the state forced share laws would give. States differ on how much spousal forced shares should be. The traditional share was one-third, but some states have specific dollar amounts, different percentages, or base the amount on length of marriage and amount of kids the couple had together.

Some states have forced share statutes for kids in limited circumstances which operate similarly to spousal forced shares. Generally, states only allow forced shares for kids when an obvious mistake or lack of information led to a kid being left out of a will. Unlike with spousal forced shares, a person can directly leave a kid out of the will, undercutting forced share statutes. 

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]