What are a wife’s rights to her deceased husband’s estate?

My mother was married to her husband for 23 years; he died in a car accident last month. He had 3 daughters all over the age of 25. My stepdad told my mom that he had no Will and that everything would go to her. Well we went through with a probate and about 10 days later one of my stepsisters took a Will that was written 23 years ago (before my mom was married to her deceased husband) to the courthouse. They called my mother and in short my mom is being told that nothing she has worked for in these last 23 yrs is hers, except for the home she is now in, which her husband borrowed against to buy property in the country that he put in only his name. I don’t know who to contact next.

Asked on October 22, 2013 under Estate Planning, West Virginia


Nathan Wagner / Law Office of Nathan Wagner

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Your mother should talk to a probate attorney in her area right away. In most states, she would be able to claim a "spousal share" or make a "spousal election" that would allow her to claim a portion of the estate, regardless of whether her husband left her out of his will. Also, she may be able to prove that the 23-year-old will was revoked or is invalid. In any case, she should get an attorney's help with this situation as soon as possible. 

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