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When Couples Separate But Do Not Divorce

Unique Circumstances For Separated Couples

Every year, millions of married couples decide to go their separate ways. While their reasons may vary, some couples choose to live apart but do not go through the divorce process. Regardless of the reason, couples who separate but do not divorce can face unique circumstances if one of them passes away.

A Couple Who Did Not Divorce

A Minnesota couple, we will call Allen and Margie, were married ten years ago. While they started off with high hopes, their relationship deteriorated over time and they eventually separated two years ago. They did not divorce, as they wanted to keep things open in case they got back together again.

Last winter, Allen was plowing snow when he began feeling a tight pain in his chest. Later that night, he passed away in the hospital from a heart attack. After Allen died and the shock wore off, his mother and sister felt they should get Allen's estate.

Margie asks "Do I have any rights to Allen's assets?"

What Does Minnesota Law Say?

Under Minnesota law, the answer is yes. If there is no prenuptial agreement or Will, Margie gets his estate.

Even if Allen signed a Will that left Margie out, she can submit court papers to "elect against the Will", which can obtain at least a share of the estate for Margie.

Fast Action Is Favorable

It is important, however, that Margie acts reasonably soon after Allen's death. Allen's own family could divide up his personal possessions under the mistaken belief that they are entitled to those things. It is always more difficult to get the assets back after they have been distributed.

If a Will has been produced and submitted for probate, Margie needs to file her election with the court within the deadline provided by law.

In their case, as in many other probate situations, time is of the essence. The decedent's family and spouse should contact an experienced probate attorney soon after the death to be sure their rights are protected.

The contents of this article are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in estate planning and probate.

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