If someone dies and they were still married but separated, who inherits their estate?

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If someone dies and they were still married but separated, who inherits their estate?

My father just died. He was married but separated for 17 years; he never got a divorce. Who would be next of kin – myself, his oldest child, or my step-mother?

Asked on September 6, 2010 under Estate Planning, New Hampshire

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

When  someone dies without a a Will they are said to have died "intestate".  Accordingly, state law will control how the deceased's estate is distributed.

In NH, if there are surviving issue (children) of the decedent (your father) one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse (you - his wife was your step-mother not your biological mother), in such a case the surviving spouse (your step-mother) will be entitled to the first $100,000, plus 1/2 of the intestate estate. You and your father's other child will split the rest.

Note:  Even though your father and step-mother were separated they were still legally husband and wife. Therefore, your step-mother's rights to inheritance were not cut-off (absent a separate agreement to that effect).


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