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An Unfinished Divorce Could Result in an Estate Dispute

The estranged husband of a Scranton homicide victim is fighting a judge's ruling that bars him from receiving any part of her estate based on claims he "deserted" her prior to her death. Donald Talerico of Scranton argued that although he and the victim, Kathleen Talerico, were separated, their divorce was never finalized. That entitles him to a share of her estate, valued at about $165,000, according to court records.

If divorcing, it is important to follow through on proceedings and to update your estate plan. If not, your estranged spouse could go after your estate.

When Kathleen Talerico filed for divorce, she and her husband separated. For three years, Talerico did not follow up on the divorce. Both she and her husband had affairs with other people.

Nevertheless, as is common with many on-again-off-again marital relationships, they remained in each other's lives and talked often.

One night while out at a party, Talerico's boyfriend beat her severely enough to cause internal bleeding in her brain.

She later died at home.

Because she was still married at the time of her death, Talerico's husband would ordinarily have a right to a portion of her estate. However, as they had been separated a judge found that her husband willfully neglected the marriage and thus was not entitled to a portion of the estate.

The husband is appealing the judge's ruling, as recently reported by The Times-Tribune in a story titled "Spouse of homicide victim fights for share of estate."

What remains unclear about this story is what Talerico herself would have wanted.

Would she have wanted her husband to have a share of her estate?

We will never know for two reasons: First, Talerico did not follow through with the divorce proceedings and, second, in the absence of following through with the divorce she could have made her wishes clear in a properly prepared estate plan.

What this case demonstrates is the benefit to updating your estate plan when you file for divorce.

An experienced estate planning attorney can work in close coordination with your divorce attorney to make sure all of the bases are covered.

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