Who is the next of kin of the deceased if spouse had been separated from him and living in different state for 15 years now? 21 Answers as of January 10, 2014

My dad died recently. He had no will. We found out that he had never gotten a divorce from his wife (not our mother), whom he had been separated from (not legally), for about 15 years. She has lived in another state since the separation. Who's entitled to his bank accounts if it wasn't a joint account and no beneficiaries are listed? She came into town suddenly to claim personal property, including $5000 cash and his vehicle. Seems unfair, but is perhaps legal right. Is this okay?

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I am assuming that your father resided in Michigan. Under Michigan law, the spouse and children will share the estate, however, the spouse is able to claim certain allowances which can total approx. $40,000. If your father's assets exceed that amount, the children are entitled to their 1/2 share.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 1/10/2014
Law Office of Pamela Braynon | Pamela Y. Braynon
If your dad was a resident of Florida, unfortunately his wife is entitled to the 1st $60,000.00 and 1/2 of the balance. His children will divide the 1/2 left equally among themselves.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 1/10/2014
S. Joseph Schramm | Joseph Schramm
Generally, when there is a spouse and children of a prior marriage involved, the estate is divided equally between the surviving spouse and the children of the prior marriage. Depending on the nature of the separation, if it can be shown that she deserted him for a period of 2 or more years, she might be disqualified from inheriting anything. However, this would require court action to prove and, in the meantime she has cleaned out the bank accounts of your father. You should probably retain counsel to see if she has established herself as personal representative of your father's estate. If she has not done so, one of you should petition the court to be appointed if there are other assets like real property. You can protect the assets of your father's estate and see that they are properly distributed. If she has already become the personal representative you can still require that she file an account and submit to an audit by the court.
Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
Replied: 1/9/2014
Donald T. Scher & Associates, P.C.
Donald T. Scher & Associates, P.C. | Donald Scher
When a person dies without a Will (intestate), the heirs are determined by state law. A decedent who is survived by a spouse and children, split the estate according to state law, usually 1/3 to the spouse and the 2/3 remaining is split equally between the children.
Answer Applies to: Arizona
Replied: 1/10/2014
James T. Weiner & Associates, P.C.
James T. Weiner & Associates, P.C. | James T. Weiner
Legally his wife may get the first $50K or so plus 1/2 of the balance of his estate. I would recommend hiring an attorney if he has significant assets to investigate.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 1/10/2014
    The Bryan Law Firm, L.L.C.
    The Bryan Law Firm, L.L.C. | Douglas L. Bryan
    No, in Louisiana if someone dies without a will, his or her children inherit his property. If he was still married, perhaps the spouse MAY have a claim to her half of any community property. But his children are the sole heirs of his property.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    Suggest you obtain the services of a probate lawyer to make a claim on your father's estate, and to prevent the former wife from taking any of the assets.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
    If the children are not children of this spouse, then spouse and children should be splitting all 50/50. This is going to be complicated, get a lawyer to help you with the probate of your father's estate.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    The Law Office of Eric J Smith
    The Law Office of Eric J Smith | Eric Smith
    If your father died in Texas, his spouse gets half of that property and his children not of her issue (you) divide the other half. Chances are the bank will require at least an heirship affidavit which should reflect that.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    James Law Group
    James Law Group | Christine James
    Technically it is her legal right if they were still married at the time of his death. If there is any large value in his estate, see an attorney and see if you can carve out some separate property exceptions based on the separate lives, but she is legally his heir.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    David Kass | David Kass
    Your Dad's wife if not divorced is entitled to half his estate if in intestacy(it would be 1/3 if he had a will under NYS's rt of election rules) his kids get remaining half.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    It will depend upon the probate code of the state in which he died. In Michigan you would have rights.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Law Office of Patricia A. Simmons
    Law Office of Patricia A. Simmons | Patrica A Simmons
    Since the decedent never divorced his wife, she is still and heir. In California, if a decedent passes without a will and has a surviving spouse, the spouse receives 1/3 and the children split the remaining 2/3. Contact the county which your father resided to determine whether or not a probate has been opened for his estate. Also contact a probate attorney to discuss your options.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Sebby Law Office
    Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
    Legally, she is still his spouse and according to intestacy laws, is probably entitled to most if not all of the estate. check with a local attorney to see if you can challenge her claim in any manner such as abandonment.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    This is a tricky situation. In most cases, if there was no divorce, she is still his wife. There is a doctrine of abandonment, under Michigan law, however. If a spouse is willingly absent from the marriage for more than one year, they can be treated as having predeceased the decedent. I would expect a fight on this, however, and you will want to retain an attorney if it gets to that point.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Richard J. Keyes Attorney at Law | Richard J. Keyes
    In Missouri, not his wife as she has abandoned him. Here is the statute: *Inheritance and statutory rights barred on misconduct of spouse. * 474.140. If any married person voluntarily leaves his or her spouse and goes away and continues with an adulterer or abandons his or her spouse without reasonable cause and continues to live separate and apart from his or her spouse for one whole year next preceding his or her death, or dwells with another in a state of adultery continuously, such spouse is forever barred from his or her inheritance rights, homestead allowance, exempt property or any statutory allowances from the estate of his or her spouse unless such spouse is voluntarily reconciled to him or her and resumes cohabitation with him or her.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd.
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd. | Randall C. Romei
    If there is no will the statute on descent and distribution controls. The spouse receives ? of the decedent's estate, the children born to or adopted by the decedent equally divide the remaining half. If a child predeceased the decedent then the descendants of that child equally share in the portion that would have gone to the deceased child. Any property held in joint tenancy passes to the surviving joint tenant and is not part of the estate of the deceased.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    Generally the wife is the first in line, even if they were separated.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Attorney & Counselor at Law | Jeffrey B. Hammerlund
    With no well she is entitled to 1 third of the cash and all the positions and his children are entitled to 2 thirds that is the law of intestate succession.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    In Nevada, without a Will, she is his heir and is entitled to all community property, assets acquired during marriage, including the separation , plus 1/3 all separate property assets he acquired before marrying her. If the assets total under $100,000 she is entitled to all, even if there is a Will Sorry, your father should have made a Will for his 1/2 or gotten a divorce. She is also entitled to his social security and probably his retirement, if any.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/10/2014
    Kokish & Goldmanis, P.C.
    Kokish & Goldmanis, P.C. | Bernard H. Greenberg
    You will need to consult with an attorney in your State who specializes in estate litigation.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/10/2014
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