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Does an Adulterous, Bigamous, Murderous Spouse Get Your Estate?

So you have a cheating, adulterous, or bigamous spouse and you are about pass away. You must be wondering: will my loving spouse get my stuff? And if so, how much? This is where Findlaw's LawBrain comes in, to tell you exactly what will happen in terms of forfeiture of rights so that you may mentally prepare yourself.

Let's start with adultery (because it starts with the Scarlet Letter "A").

Generally speaking, the fact that one spouse committed adultery, does not bar that spouse's rights of inheritance in the other's estate. However, in a number of jurisdictions express statutory provisions do not permit a surviving wife to inherit her husband's estate if she has abandoned him or left him to "live in" adultery.

Now what about a bigamous spouse i.e. one that has married someone else without bothering to divorce you? Well, this is one where the issue depends on jurisdiction. In some states a bigamous spouse is barred from the spouse's estate and in others, not so much. If you suspect your spouse of being bigamous you should speak to a New York estate planning attorney (and just to be safe, a good family law attorney) to determine your future.

Finally, what about a murderous spouse? Well, it isn't as straightforward as you might think. Generally speaking an intentional killing will probably lead to a bar from inheritance; but a negligent or unintentional killing may not.

In the end, the best way to disinherit a spouse is through divorce. It is the most sure fire way to make sure your assets don't go to your adulterous, bigamous, murderous spouse.

So what is the take away from all this? It is that you need an estate planning attorney to discuss forfeiture of rights, and like death and taxes, divorce can be counted on as a sure thing.

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