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How to Claim an Elective Share of Your Spouse’s Estate If Your Spouse Had Complex Business Interests


Maryland law allows married people to leave as much or as little property to their spouses as they choose in their wills.  This means that, just because you are married, you can still choose to leave your entire estate to your siblings, your children from a previous marriage, a favorite charity, or anyone else.  Spouses have the right to an elective share, however.  Unlike any other family member, the decedent’s spouse can override the decedent’s will and claim a share of the estate.  If your spouse left you little or nothing in their will, and you want to claim your elective share, contact a probate lawyer.

Calculating the Spouse’s Elective Share

According to Maryland law, a surviving spouse can elect to claim a spousal elective share if this would entitle him or her to a greater share of the estate than if he or she just accepted the assets bequeathed to him or her in the decedent’s will.  If the decedent had children, then the spouse’s elective share equals one third of the net value of the estate.  If the decedent did not have children, then the spouse’s elective share is equal to one half of the net value of the decedent’s estate.  The net value of the estate means its value after it has paid its taxes and settled the decedent’s debts.

When the Decedent’s Assets Fluctuate in Value During the Probate Case

Litigation related to the estate of Walter Green went on for more than 18 years, and the laws changed substantially between his death in 1993 and the 2011 court decision where an appeal’s court ruled on his widow Helen’s elective share.  The personal representative of the estate was the decedent’s son Carlton, and another main beneficiary of it was his daughter Anne.  The estate was valued at over $28 million, and the decedent owned real estate properties in Maryland as well as five other states.  He also held ownership interest in a variety of businesses, including a hotel and a chicken farm.

Helen claimed an elective share in 1994, but more than a decade went by before she could receive any money from the estate.  During the intervening years, the real estate market and savings and loan industries went through difficult times, and some of the decedent’s assets lost value.  The appeals court ruled that Helen’s elective share must be calculated based on the net value as assessed in 1994.  Helen also requested to receive her share in kind, in other words, in the form of businesses and real estate properties, but Carlton argued that she should only receive it in cash.  In 2011, the appeals court ruled that Helen must receive her elective share in cash.

Let Us Help You Today

If the probate of your family member’s estate has dragged on for so long that your friend’s jokes about Bleak House are getting old, you need a Washington DC probate lawyer who gets things done. Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for help today.



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