If my mother passed while she was separated from my stepdad and preparing for a divorce, what are our respective rights to her estate?

UPDATED: Sep 4, 2014

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If my mother passed while she was separated from my stepdad and preparing for a divorce, what are our respective rights to her estate?

Since they were still technically married at the time of my mother’s death her husband has total control of all her assets and finances. I was 18 at her time of death, am I legally entitled to anything? Even if her husband does not approve of it? He has been very secretive and does not disclose my mother’s financial status to anyone, even me, her son.

Asked on September 4, 2014 under Estate Planning, Washington


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your mother.

If your mother left a Will, the Will is controlling as to inheritance.

If your mother did NOT leave a Will, the rules of intestate succession determine inheritance.  Intestate means dying without a Will.

Under intestate succession, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.  However, since your mother and stepfather were separated, if they had no intent to reunite even though the divorce had not been finalized, then there isn't any surviving spouse and you would inherit your mother's entire estate if you don't have any brothers and sisters.  If you have brothers and sisters, then the estate would be divided equally among the surviving children.  If you had a deceased sibling who had children (your mother's grandchildren), they would inherit the share of your mother's estate their deceased parent would have inherited had that deceased parent survived.

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