How Does Probate Work When a Spouse Dies in Connecticut?

By Wayne Thomas

Property owned by your spouse must be collected and distributed to his heirs and beneficiaries after his death, in a process known as probate. If your spouse leaves a valid will, his property will pass according to his wishes after his debts are paid. If he did not leave a will, his property will pass according to a rigid set of state rules that prioritize heirs based on their relationship to him. Either way, as a surviving spouse, you have certain rights.

Property owned by your spouse must be collected and distributed to his heirs and beneficiaries after his death, in a process known as probate. If your spouse leaves a valid will, his property will pass according to his wishes after his debts are paid. If he did not leave a will, his property will pass according to a rigid set of state rules that prioritize heirs based on their relationship to him. Either way, as a surviving spouse, you have certain rights.

Starting Probate

If your spouse dies with a valid will in Connecticut, someone must file it with the probate court in the county where he lived. She must do so within 30 days of his death. This is typically the duty of the person he named as executor in the will. The executor is charged with administering the estate through the probate process. If your spouse didn't leave a will, an application for appointment of an administrator must be filed with the court instead. The court will then appoint an administrator who serves the same role as an executor. The administrator is usually a close relative, such as the surviving spouse or an adult child.

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Support Allowance

As the surviving spouse, you can petition the court for a support allowance while the case is pending in probate. If you're not also the executor of your spouse's will, you'll need the executor's consent for this allowance. You are also generally allowed to drive your spouse's automobile, but you'll need the court's permission. The amount and length of the support amount is at the court's discretion, and can be awarded as a lump sum up front or be paid out periodically. Because these payments take priority over claims against the estate, a judge may be reluctant to order a large allowance if there are a lot of outstanding debts.

Determining the Estate

Before a court can determine how much you are entitled to based on a will or by law, your spouse's net estate must be calculated. This requires that the executor inventory all your spouse's assets and determine a value for each. Once this is complete, the court will publish a notice to your spouse's creditors in the newspaper. Creditors have 150 days to collect, or 90 days if the executor provides actual notice by certified mail. Before assets are distributed to a surviving spouse and other beneficiaries, all the deceased's debts must be paid: creditors, funeral expenses, legal fees, taxes and all other administrative costs.

Distribution

After all your spouse's debts have been paid, his remaining assets may be distributed. As the surviving spouse, you are entitled by law to at least one-third of the value of any remaining property, even if his will specifies that you should receive less. Further, if your spouse dies without a will, you are entitled to all of the estate if he has no surviving parents or children. If he has surviving parents but no children, you are entitled to $100,000 plus three-quarters of the estate. If he has surviving children that are also your children, you are entitled to $100,000 plus half of the estate. If the surviving children are not also your children, you are entitled to half of the estate.

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Legal Rights for a Widow With No Will in NC

References

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Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, thus leaving an intestate estate, Maine probate statutes govern how the intestate estate should be divided. Probate judges appoint personal representatives, also called administrators, to distribute intestate estates to heirs. Generally, an administrator must gather estate assets, pay estate debts and convey the net assets to heirs within approximately one year of appointment.

Laws on the Responsibilities for the Deceased in Massachusetts

When someone names you as executor in his will, you have a legal obligation to the decedent’s beneficiaries to handle the estate properly. You also have a moral responsibility to the decedent to ensure his estate is settled according to his wishes. As long as he left a will, these obligations overlap. If he did not leave a will, the decedent has no say in where his property goes. The state of Massachusetts will give it to his most immediate heirs and you have no right to override that if you think he might have wanted it to go to someone else.

Spousal Property Rights & the Probate Process

The death of a spouse can be an incredibly emotional experience. During your time of grieving, settling property matters can be the last thing on your mind. However, regardless of whether your spouse had a valid will, certain types of property must go through a court-supervised process known as probate before ownership can change hands. Knowing what your rights are regarding property owned by your deceased spouse will help you best prepare for the probate process.

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