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Abandonment of a Spouse – When is an Estranged Spouse Entitled to Collect Part of the Estate?

The law in New York is set up so that one spouse can be sure to be entitled to the other spouse’s part of the estate, even in cases where the decedent does not leave a will. What about those situations where the spouses are estranged and not living together for some reason? Are there instances in such situations where the other beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate can try to block an estranged spouse from collecting his or her elective share? The answer is yes, but only in some cases. It must be kept in mind that such cases between a surviving spouse can be complex and especially adversarial, meaning that an experienced New York City estate attorney is vital to success.

When spouses are separated for some reason at the time that one dies., the other beneficiaries of the estate may try to argue that the surviving spouse is not entitled to collect their share of the estate because he or she had abandoned the marriage. This allows the courts to intervene in the cases of spouses who are estranged at the time of the decedent’s death.

While there are legal measures in place allowing for the surviving spouse to be blocked from collecting their share of the estate, doing so involves complex legal work that is really only suitable for a New York City estate attorney. Simply proving that the spouses did not live together at the time one spouse died will not be enough to have the surviving spouse cut out of the proceeds of the estate. Court usually looks for egregious or obvious evidence that one spouse abandoned the other. Examples of actions that could be considered abandonment could be living apart without the decedent’s permission, refusing to have contact with the decedent while he or she was dying or filing for divorce while living apart.

There are some instances where a spouse would not have been considered to have abandoned the decedent, such as when leaving the decedent was somehow justified or could otherwise be explained. Examples of this could include if the decedent was abusive when the surviving spouse left or when the surviving spouse was only separated from the decedent because he or she was unable to care for the decedent for some reason.

In addition to the procedure being difficult when it comes to disputes involving spousal rights to the estate, an experienced New York City estate lawyer needs to be hired because these cases can often end up getting appealed, due to the complex legal and factual issues involved, so it’s important to not make any errors which would make an appeal possible.

If you would like to consult a New York City estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at 718-509-9774.