Alaska’s surviving spouses have important rights under Alaska law, including:
- Intestate Rights
- Homestead Allowance
- Exempt Property
- Family Allowance
- Elective Share
- Opt-In Community Property
Learning about widow’s rights in Alaska is a key first step in navigating probate of a deceased spouse’s assets.
Surviving Spouse Rights in Alaska When There Is No Valid Will
When a decedent dies in Alaska without a valid will they have died intestate. The intestate laws of Alaska provide for the surviving spouse to receive all or part of the estate. The share to which the surviving spouse is entitled depends on the other heirs that survive the Decedent. A.S. 13.12.102.
Entire Estate If No Descendants Or Parents Or All of Decedent’s Descendants Are Also Surviving Spouse’s Descendants
In Alaska, if decedent as no surviving descendants or parents, or all of Decedent’s descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse is entitled to decedent’s entire estate.
Surviving Spouse Entitled to A Portion of Estate If Other Surviving Heirs
- Surviving Parent, No Children. If the decedent is survived by a parent, and the decedent had no children, then the surviving spouse has the right to the first $200,000 of the estate, and ¾ of the balance of the estate.
- All Shared Descendants But Surviving Spouse Has Non-Shared Descendants. If all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, but the surviving spouse has descendants from a different relationship, the surviving spouse is not entitled to the entire estate. Instead, the surviving spouse has the right to the first $150,000, plus ½ of the balance of the probate estate. The remaining ½ passes to the decedent’s children.
- Non-Shared Descendants of Decedent. If the decedent has descendants that are not also descendants of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse has the right to the first $100,000 plus ½ the balance of the probate estate. The remaining ½ passes to the descendants of the decedent that are not descendants of the surviving spouse.
Surviving Spouse Rights to Allowances and Exemptions
Alaskan law provides several allowances and exemptions for the surviving spouse.
Under Alaska statutes, the surviving spouse has the right to a homestead allowance of $27,000. The homestead allowance is exempt from and has priority over claims against the estate. Also, the homestead allowance is in addition to shares passing to the surviving spouse by intestate succession, the will, or by way of elective share. A.S. 13.12.402.
Alaska law also entitles the surviving spouse to exempt property. Exempt property from the estate is not to exceed $10,000, and includes household furniture, cars, furnishings, appliances, and personal effects. The right to exempt property is in addition to shares passing to the surviving spouse by intestate succession, the will, or by way of elective share. A.S. 13.12.403.
A surviving spouse in Alaska also has the right to a family allowance in a reasonable amount from the estate for their maintenance during the estate administration. The allowance may be paid in a lump sum or in periodic installments. A.S. 13.12.404.
Surviving Spouse Entitled To An Elective Share
A surviving spouse is also entitled to elect to take an elective share. The surviving spouse has a statutory right of election to claim one-third of the “augmented estate.”
If the total amount of the spouse’s property and non-probate transfers to others, decedent’s non-probate transfers to spouse, and elective share payable from decedent’s probate/non-probate transfers to others is less than $50,000, the surviving spouse is entitled to a supplemental elective share amount equal to the difference between the sum aforesaid and $50,000. A.S. 13.12.202.
The augmented estate consists of the sum of the values of all property, whether real or personal, movable or immovable, tangible or intangible, wherever situated, that constitute the decedent’s net probate estate, the decedent’s nonprobate transfers to others, the decedent’s nonprobate transfers to the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse’s property and nonprobate transfers to others. A.S. 13.12.203.
The surviving spouse must file the petition for the elective share by the later of nine months after the decedent’s death or six months after probate of the decedent’s will, whichever is later. A.S. 13.12.211.
Alaska Is An Opt-In Community Property State
In Alaska, spouses can agree to a community property arrangement. If a couple opts in to a community property arrangement, this will affect the division of the property upon a spouse’s death.