Surviving spouses have many important rights and benefits in Washington DC, including:
- Intestate rights
- Homestead allowance
- Exempt property
- Family Allowance
- Elective share rights
Surviving Spouse Rights in Washington DC When There Is No Valid Will – Intestacy
When someone dies without a valid will, they have died intestate. An intestate estate is governed by DC laws. The widow’s share of decedent’s intestate estate depends on the other people that survived the decedent.
- Entire Estate: The surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate if decedent had no surviving descendants or parent.
- 2/3 of Estate: The surviving spouse is entitled to 2/3 of the estate if the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and there is no other surviving descendant of the surviving spouse.
- ¾ of Estate: The surviving spouse is entitled to 3/4 of the estate if decedent has no surviving descendants but has surviving parent(s).
- ½ of Estate: The surviving spouse is entitled to ½ of the Estate if one or more of decedent’s surviving descendants are not descendants of the surviving spouse, or if all of decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has one or more separate surviving descendants.
Surviving Spouse’s Right To an Elective Share – Election Against The Will
A surviving spouse in DC has the right to an elective share of decedent’s net estate distributable under the will. A surviving spouse might elect to take an elective share in lieu of a bequest under the will when the surviving spouse is dissatisfied with the bequest under the will or is disinherited. The surviving spouse’s elective share is the spouse’s intestate share but not in excess of ½ of decedent’s net estate distributable under the will. D.C. Law 19-113.
A decedent’s revocable trust property is excluded from the surviving spouse’s elective share, although some case law suggests that inclusion of trust assets might be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as when a transfer is made to purposefully evade the surviving spouse’s elective share rights.
Surviving Spouse Allowances and Exemptions
A surviving spouse in DC is also entitled to certain allowances and exemptions. These rights include:
- Homestead allowance: The surviving spouse is entitled to a homestead allowance of $15,000. D.C. Law 19-101.02.
- Exempt property allowance: The surviving spouse is entitled to an exempt property allowance of $10,000. D.C. Law 19-101.03.
- Family Allowance: The surviving spouse is entitled to a reasonable family allowance during the period of administration. D.C. Law 19-101.04.
The surviving spouse’s allowances and exemptions are all without regard to elective share.