Separated spouse has died

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Latest post 11-08-2012 8:17 PM by Drew. 6 replies.
  • 11-08-2012 2:13 PM

    • cfarley
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 11-08-2012
    • MN
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    Separated spouse has died

    My husband and were living apart for 4 years, but never filed any legal papers. We were married for almost 18 years. He died last week. He left no will. He named his mother to get his life insurance. Am I now responsible for all the bills? Not just his medical ones ,what about the ones from when we were together? He has tax debt also. She has his car, cleaned out his apartment, and went to his work and cleared out that stuff also. I am not sure if getting an attorney would be worth it. Any help or suggestions would be great.

  • 11-08-2012 2:15 PM In reply to

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    "Am I now responsible for all the bills?"

    Not unless your name is on them or you signed something taking responsibility.

    I gather your husband's mother had access to his place, but unless she can point to a will making her executor AND having a probate court's letter of testament appointing her as such, she's not entitled to take his stuff. 

    "I am not sure if getting an attorney would be worth it."

    Not sure what you expect folks to say to this; up to you.

  • 11-08-2012 2:26 PM In reply to

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    cfarley:
    My husband and were living apart for 4 years, but never filed any legal papers. We were married for almost 18 years

    Any children?

    cfarley:
    He named his mother to get his life insurance

    OK.

    cfarley:
    Am I now responsible for all the bills?

    His estate is responsible for all his bills.

    cfarley:
    Not just his medical ones ,what about the ones from when we were together?

    If you incurred them jointly (your name attached to them) they are likely yours now.

    cfarley:
    He has tax debt also.

    Depends on how far back they go. If he was filing on his own for the last four years, probably not. If there was any tax debt from when you were together and filing jointly, that could be your debt.

    cfarley:
    She has his car, cleaned out his apartment, and went to his work and cleared out that stuff also. I am not sure if getting an attorney would be worth it.

    If the car was titled to him you could have a claim on it in intestacy. You'll have to decide if it's worth enough to hassle with it because you'll probably have to open probate in court to get it.

    As for stuff in his apartment, probably best to just let that go unless you know of something really valuable.

    For small estates you can generally do a simplified probate that doesn't require a lawyer.

    Might consider just letting sleeping dogs lie for the moment if there's not much money involved and let the mother handle the estate.

    However, if somebody comes to you some time and wants your signature on something, that's when you'll have the leverage to get something out of it.

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  • 11-08-2012 3:12 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 48,979

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    It may not be smart to snooze  --lest others clean out his estate and possibly leave you with any old bills where you might have entered same jointly or signed it etc...

    1. You are still his spouse --and in most states that puts you #1 as his heir  under intestacy  -some share to his kids if they are not also your kids --but  wife stands to get most if not all the estate--net of bills of course.

        (Some states might freeze out a spouse who long term abandoned the other --but I'm way short of any details.)

    2.Your state probably has a simplified small estate procedure you can follow w/o a lawyer --IF there is a pot to be worth considering that is ---

        Generally a spouse has first shot at seeking administrators role --but if you snooze too long and Mom gets it and cleans out the pot --it may be daunting to reconstruct the pot.

    3. Unless Mom was named on life insurance policy its not necessarily hers --and she may have prematurely grabbed the car

    4. Yes, his estate is liable for his bills --if it has enough to pay same so be it....but you might be wise to get involved lest his estate not pay some where you might be exposed say an old joint tax return that was never done right and closed. 

    5. If Mom raided the pot the administrator probably has the p[ower to insist she put it back in pot. .



  • 11-08-2012 3:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    cfarley:
    Am I now responsible for all the bills?

    No way to know in the abstract.

     

    cfarley:
    what about the ones from when we were together?

    Since you've been separated four years, what bills still remain from before the separation?

     

    cfarley:
    He has tax debt also.

    Depending on what sort of taxes you're talking about, you may be jointly liable for the debt.  While you were separated, did you file your federal and state income tax returns as married filing jointly or married filing separately?

     

    cfarley:
    Any help or suggestions would be great.

    I'm not sure what your intent is here. As his wife, you're entitled to his entire estate (unless he is also survived by children, in which case you'll share the estate with the children). Whether it's worthwhile to chase things down that his mother has taken will depend on the value of the estate. 

  • 11-08-2012 6:36 PM In reply to

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    According to the info in this link, unless you have any children that are not his or he has any that are not yours, you are entitled to his entire estate:

    http://www.mystatewill.com/statutes/mn_law.php

    To protect your interests, you should follow the procedure for opening probate in the appropriate county (where he was living).  If your husband's estate is insolvent, it will have to go through formal probate.  This website has a probably trustworthy explanation of how it all works, even if it isn't your county:  http://www.mncourts.gov/district/2/?page=768

    You'll have to pick someone to propose as the administrator of the estate.  You could probably propose yourself, but if the estate is complicated (whether by having a lot of assets or by having a lot of debts) you might find yourself overwhelmed by the job.  Not sure to what extent you can have yourself appointed and then delegate the actual work to a lawyer you hire.  If you can do that, it would make it easier to hire a different lawyer if you find you're not happy with your first choice (easier than it would be if the lawyer is the one appointed as administrator).

     

  • 11-08-2012 8:17 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 48,979

    Re: Separated spouse has died

    Well--not necessarily --if the pot is clearly empty it may not be worth addressing it. If I'd sure not spend a dime of my money to solve an empty pot problem.

    If there is value to the pot then if you become the offical administrator you are most likley entitled to a modest fee off the top of the pot ahead of just about everyone else--logical--otherwise nobody would ever step up to do the work.

    I'm not sure if to be the administratorunder the simplified process entitles you to any fee off the top.

    Sometimes if there are assets but lots of debts the fee is the only thing sort of worth saving --its not a lot but it beats zero --also the attorney costs also tends to come off the top of pot --but be careful --no attorney is going to agree to work for  zippo..



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