If I’m married but have been separated for 10 years with no contact with my spouse, what do I need to do now that he has died?

I received a sympathy card from the local hospital 4 months ago addressed to my spouse’s brother at my address (he lives out of state); the card referred to the death of my husband. I have been hesitant to inquire or get the death certificate as I do not want to be held responsible for any debt he may have incurred after our split. His name is also still attached to my home that I alone have paid the mortgage on for the last 10 years. I know that I need to do something to protect my interests but not sure where to start. We never divorced because I could not afford to pay for it and he wasn’t going to help.

Asked on July 14, 2015 under Estate Planning, Ohio


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You need to consult with a probate attorney to see what matters related to your husband's estate need to be finalized, if any.  An attorney can also help you obtain a copy of the death certificate.  The attorney review can also review the deed(s) associated with your house.  If you had a right of survivorship provision, you may not need to do anything to protect your home, because it would automatically revert to you in entirety upon his death.  But to know for sure, you need to have someone look at the deed and the mortgage contract.  You may actually be in a better position than you thought you were originally.

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