What rights does my mother’s husband have to her estate?

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What rights does my mother’s husband have to her estate?

My mother recently passed away. She had a husband of 7 months and he has seemingly all claim to everything – house, car, life insurance, etc . What action can I take?

Asked on June 18, 2017 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Anything titled in only his name and which predated marriage is his and remains his.
2) Anything jointly titled in both their names (e.g. a joint bank account, jointly owned home or car) becomes his when she passes.
3) Life insurance goes to whomever was listed as the beneficiary on the policy(ies).
4) If she had a will, anything owned solely by her and her share (1/2) of any "community" property or money acquired by the two of them during their brief marriage (other than jointly owned property, as discusseed above) will go to whomever the will says it does.
5) If she had no will, the rules of "intestate succession" determine who inherits her separate (her own) property and her 1/2 of community property: he will inherit, as her husband, 1/3 her separate policy and the right to use (e.g. live in) any home she owned for life; her children (you and any siblings) share in the other 2/3 of her separate property and get her 1/2 share of community property.
If you believe he is taking more than he is entitled to, you can sue him and her "estate" (the legal entity made to gather, take care of, then distribute her assets): in the lawsuit, you will be able to get information (e.g. about who owed what and how; what everything was worth and how much money in bank or brokerage accounts; about whether there was a will; about the beneficiary(ies) of any life insurance policies; etc.) and can force him to turn over to the proper heirs anything to which he is not entitled. This type of lawsuit is technical and complex; you are strongly encourage to retain a probate or trusts & estates attorney to help you.


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