Many people who are mourning the loss of a spouse are not prepared for the shock of disinheritance. While it may be possible to disinherit a current spouse in other states, New York law requires that a surviving spouse be left at least a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate.
What Spouses Must Know About New York Inheritance Laws
Under New York law, a spouse who is legally married to a decedent at the time of their death has a right to inherit an “elective” share of the assets. If the decedent dies without a will and without children, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate. If there is no will but there are surviving children, the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $50,000 in assets and one-half of the remainder of the estate.
A surviving spouse may still be entitled to an elective share of the assets even if he or she:
- Was excluded from the will. If your spouse left a will, New York law entitles you to receive $50,000 or one-third of the estate (or half of the estate if there are no children), whichever is greater. If you were intentionally omitted from the will, you will have to file a will contest proceeding to collect your inheritance.
- Signed a prenuptial agreement. If you signed a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement stating you would not be entitled to any of your deceased spouse’s assets, an estate litigation lawyer could gather evidence on your behalf to get your inheritance reinstated.
- Has exceeded the time limit to bring a claim. In most cases, a spousal claim must be brought before the New York Surrogate’s Court within two years of the decedent’s death, and within six months of the appointment of the personal representative to the estate. However, the Court may extend the filing period in certain circumstances.
If you are a surviving spouse who has been disinherited, you should seek legal advice from an NYC estate litigation attorney immediately. Contact our law firm today to tell us more about your dispute in your initial consultation.