The answer depends upon several things, most notably:
1) Did the other party cause death? and 2) Was the marital status terminated early by bifurcation?
For purposes of this article. We are going to assume that death is a result of accidental or natural causes, not criminally expedited.
DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS STOP WHEN A SPOUSE DIES
If a party’s death occurs before their marital status is dissolved, then the property passes according to intestate succession or another governing estate plan, including survivorship and community property rights, and the family court loses jurisdiction over the property which now must be adjudicated by the probate court.
How a Death During a Divorce Affects The Terms
So, the divorce process stops when a spouse dies. What does that mean for the allocation of property, child custody, and financial obligations?
Allocation of Property: If your spouse dies during a divorce, you’ll typically assume ownership of all community property. You may also inherit all of your spouse’s separate property unless they had a last will saying otherwise.
The Decedent’s Non-Probate Assets
All states distinguish between probate and non-probate assets when a person dies. Non-probate assets are those that pass directly to a named beneficiary by contract, so probate isn’t necessary to achieve a transfer of title. For example, life insurance death benefits and retirement plans usually have named beneficiaries. If the probate court is deciding the disposition of your marital estate, it generally has no control over these assets. They go to the named beneficiaries, regardless of your divorce plans. If your spouse named you and neglected to change her designation when you filed for divorce, you’ll usually still inherit.
What Happens When a Will Goes to Probate?
If you have assets at the time of your death, they must still pass through the probate process so your outstanding bills are paid and the remaining assets go to your statutory heirs — persons whom by the law in your particular state are deemed to have the right to inherit from you. If you leave a will, the process is overseen by your chosen executor.
Is a Divorce Decree a Conveyance of Property?
A divorce decree usually splits property between spouses in addition to addressing child support, custody, and other issues. However, even though your decree orders your property to be split in a certain way, you may have to take additional steps to make the transfer effective. For example, you may need to sign a deed giving real estate to your spouse.
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