If you were married and you eventually divorced your spouse and now he
or she has passed away, you may be wondering if you are technically the
“surviving spouse” under Tennessee law. If you are a surviving
spouse, does that make you entitled to your ex’s estate? Read on
as I explain what a surviving spouse is and what it isn’t.
A surviving spouse is a widow (woman) or a widower (man) whose husband
or wife was married to them at the time of their death. A divorced man
or woman whose ex-husband or wife died is
not a surviving spouse. So, if you and your ex-husband or wife obtained a divorce and he or she
died, you would NOT be considered a surviving spouse because you were
not married to your ex at the time of their death.
“What if we broke up, but we never divorced?” In that case,
you would be considered a surviving spouse because you were still legally
married to your spouse at the time of his or her death.
What Are the Effects of Divorce or Separation?
As I mentioned above, if you were divorced from the decedent, you are not
the surviving spouse, unless you remarried your ex and you were married
to him or her at the time of their death. If you split up and you obtained
a decree of separation, again, that would not have terminated your marital
status. Meaning, if you were separated from your spouse and they passed
away, you would still be considered their husband or wife for the purposes of
elective share related to a will or
intestate succession, which has to do with a person dying without a valid will. If you were
legally married to the decedent at the time of their death, then you would
have certain rights to their estate as a result of your marital status,
even if you had terminated your relationship verbally.
Disinheriting a Spouse in Nashville, TN
I hope this article helped clear up some questions that you had. To learn
more about the rights of a surviving spouse under Tennessee law, I invite you to
contact my firm.