What rights does a wife have

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What rights does a wife have

My dad passed away last year. He has property did not leave a Will. He has 2 children and a wife who left him. His wife left him 17 years ago. Does she still have rights to the property?

Asked on May 2, 2019 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

"Estranged" doesn't change the fact that she was still his wife and they were still married. The law doesn't care about the quality or nature of their marital relationship--only that they were married. 
She is entitled to what any spouse is entitled to when her spouse passes away. In your state (NY), that means she gets the first $50,000 of money or value (e.g. equity) in the estate (from what he left behind) and 1/2 everything in excess of $50,000; his children share the other one-half-of-everything-over0-$50,000.
If they were wholly estranged for so many years, your father should have divorced her to make sure that she would not inherit, if that had been his intention.


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