Widow in Second Marriage Has Legal Rights to Deceased Spouse’s Estate

widow in second marriageA client’s dad was in a second marriage when he died recently.  The couple did not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.  Dad always told the kids not to worry; they were protected, because he had signed a revocable living trust and pourover last will leaving everything to his kids.  The stepmother, however, says she’s entitled to the house and much more.  She threatens to sue if the family doesn’t agree.  Does she have a legal leg to stand on?

Your father may have been well-intentioned, but he was wrong on the facts.  Without a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the marriage gives his widow many rights to his estate.  Notwithstanding the trust provisions, she may have the right to live in the marital property or to force the sale and get a portion of the proceeds.  Beyond that, she is entitled to a percentage of all probate assets, and all non-probatable assets – for example, an IRA and any assets in the trust.

The stepparent must assert her rights in a timely and proper fashion in order to retain them.  As your Dad’s children each must learn their rights immediately so each can take all necessary steps to protect their inheritance.

Contact me personally today to discuss your New Jersey probate litigation matter.  I am easy to talk to, very approachable and can offer you practical, legal ways to handle your concerns.  You can reach me toll free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County New Jersey Probate Administration Attorney

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