What happens with my ex’s estate if he was not legally remarried?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What happens with my ex’s estate if he was not legally remarried?

My ex-husband remarried 5 years ago and passed away 3 years later. Our children were left with 3/4 of his estate where his widow now lives and also money which she had partial control over. My adult daughters feel like she has been dishonest with the amount of money owed to them and the current situation with the houses that he owned with her. My oldest daughter just found out his widow was still legally married when she married her dad. Would this change anything with the estate that was left to all 4 of them because, according to her, he had no Will which I find hard to believe because he had been so ill. We don’t know where to start.

Asked on December 18, 2017 under Estate Planning, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If there was no will, the estate passes by intestate succession, or the rules for who gets what when there is no will. (Note: if a will was created but has "disappeared" and is never found, it may as well not exist and has no effect.)
A legally married spouse inherits a large share of the estate under intestate succession, if there was no will, while the deceased's children by another person inherit the rest; but if someone was NOT legally married to the decedent (person who passed away), they inherit *nothing* even if the lived together, told people they were married, etc. Only legal marriage affects inheritance.
So if the widow was still married to another when she "married" your ex, he and she were NOT married unless they "re-married" later, once her prior marriage was actually legally terminated: in the U.S. you simply cannot marry person B while still married to person A. So the status of her prior marriage at the time when she supposedly married your ex would affect what your children would inherit if there was no will.
(Note: certainly jointly owned property, like real estate owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship [the most common way for spouses or people who act as spouses to own a home] or joint bank/brokerage accounts is not inherited: it goes directly to the surviving joint owner when one owner passes away. So if they owned assets jointly, she may get them regardless of marital status.)
Contesting inheritance can be complicated: you really need a lawyer to do it properly. If there is enough at stake (enough money or enough equity in real estate, for example) to make hiring a lawyer worthwhile, your children should retain one to look into this situation and challenge the alleged spouse's right to inherit, if appropriate. If there is not enough to justify the cost of lawyer, they wish to leave well enough alone.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption