When a family member dies, the administrative process of settling the deceased’s estate is called probate. If a person has a detailed will, the process is usually not complicated – any creditors and tax responsibilities the deceased had are paid and any items that the deceased wanted gifted are given to the designated heirs. However, sometimes the probate process reveals things that no one knew about the deceased, and sometimes these things can severely impact the surviving family members. It’s a fact that Florida residents need to be aware of.
To highlight the issue, there’s this story. A 75-year-old woman from another state was sorting through her recently deceased husband’s paperwork, she made the startling discovery that the man she thought she had been happily married to for 30 years had actually divorced her eight years earlier. Because of the divorce, she was not entitled to his $44,000 life insurance settlement or his pension; those assets would instead go to his children from a previous relationship.
The woman claimed that she was unaware of the divorce and that her husband had used fraudulent means to seek an uncontested divorce. The husband had been granted the divorce on his claim of abandonment in the face of financial difficulties. She filed a petition to have the divorce set aside. She was able to show in court that she had never abandoned him, that they had remained together right up until his death and that she had never been notified of any divorce proceedings. A New York judge ruled that the woman was entitled to both the insurance money and the pension payments.
This unique case shows how sometimes a simple process can quickly become complicated when something unexpected happens during estate administration. It also points out the value of enlisting the aid of an experienced legal professional in the process.
Source: Fox News, “New York woman reportedly learns husband divorced her eight years before his death,” Nov. 19, 2012