WHAT HAPPENS IF MY SPOUSE DIES WHILE WE ARE SEPARATED IN VIRGINIA?
In the event that you were separated from your spouse and they pass away before the divorce was filed, you likely would inherit from your spouse according to Virginia law as though you are legally married, unless they left a Will which specified otherwise, because technically you still are legally married. This means you would receive all assets that you would have pre-separation, and you might not be liable for their solely held debts.
Even though you were living separately so you may feel divorced, according to Virginia law, you were still legally married. Separation is not officially filed with the Court until it is listed in a complaint for divorce. This means that when you are discussing your spouse’s passing with third parties, you would not disclose your separation or refer to him or her as your “estranged partner”; there would be no official legal record of separation or estrangement, etc.
If you filed for divorce with the Court of appropriate jurisdiction, you would still receive the assets you were entitled to receive according to your separation agreement, however, your spouses’s remaining assets would be distributed according to their Will, or their assets would trickle down their family tree according to Virginia law if they died without a Will.
Of course, every couple has unique circumstances which may impact any assets or debts left behind. If you have any confusion or questions regarding your circumstances, receiving the advice of an attorney should be your next step.
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Dealing with an unexpected death during separation may be difficult to navigate. Michelle Hopkins and her legal team are ready to assist you with questions or concern