Typically, a person can’t disinherit a current spouse – in other words, leave them no inheritance in their will or other estate plan documents. Surviving spouses are generally expected to receive some inheritance when their husband or wife dies.
That’s why if a person dies without a will (intestate), any surviving spouse generally inherits the bulk of the estate. If there are surviving children, they’ll also inherit a portion.
So what happens if your spouse did have a will, but you learn after their death that they left you little or nothing? Maybe they left most of it to their children from a previous marriage or decided to leave everything to charity.
Maybe you even agreed to that informally many years ago. However, now that you’re older and facing the remainder of your life without your spouse, you realize you need and want a share of their estate. They may have had significant assets in their name alone – perhaps including the family home and other properties.
Seeking an “elective share”
You can renounce their will. That means that you decide (elect) to take the share of the estate that you’re entitled to have as the surviving spouse under Kentucky law. That’s generally a third to a half, depending on the type of assets.
Laws like this were enacted throughout the country many years ago, primarily to prevent widows from being left with nothing after their husbands die. However, they apply equally, regardless of gender.
The primary exception to the right to an elective share would be if you and your spouse had a prenuptial agreement in which you relinquished any inheritance you would be entitled to under the law.
If you’re considering taking the step of renouncing your deceased spouse’s will, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re doing it correctly and that you understand the law. It’s best to act as soon as possible, as other family members will likely be affected. Your best first step is to seek experienced legal guidance.