It's a big emotional hardship when a spouse dies and leaves a spouse
behind. The law of the probate code can actually help protect the widow
or widower from some financial perils. For example, there are laws that
help the widow(er) claim a "spousal share" or "elective
share" of the
estate. The "share" is a portion of the deceased spouse's estate
which the surviving spouse may claim in place or in addition to what the
survivor was left in the will. The idea is that just because your spouse
died doesn't mean you have to be left destitute and without a home
– even if that spouse left you out of the Will. In specialized cases,
the elective share may be used to claim estate money or property on behalf
of minor children left behind.
Sometimes accidents happen and a surviving spouse is left to raise young
children and struggle with a mountain of debt in a house that's "underwater."
Other times spouses disinherit each other in their wills, yet a surviving
spouse needs somewhere to live and something to live on. Often money is
tight and the financial situation complicated. The financial survival
of the widow(er) could depend on whether or not they take the initiative
and "elect" for that spousal share of the estate. The spousal
share will be awarded by the probate court ONLY if the spouse petitions
the court for it and it's only available for a short time after the
death. So, snooze and you will lose the chance to petition for that share later.
The spousal share protects the surviving spouse, allowing the surviving
spouse to keep the home and up to one-third of the estate - even if the
will says the entire estate goes to an unrelated friend.
There are many helpful petitions that may be used in the probate court
to assist the surviving family. These are the tools of the Probate attorney.
If these tools are not used while available, the survivors could be vulnerable
to estate losses, creditor attacks and family fights.
Robert S. Meyring, of Meyring Law Firm offers free 10 minute phone evaluations at 678-217-4369.
The Meyring Law Firm is located 200 feet east of the railroad crossing
on Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta. More information at