Spousal Inheritance Rights

The State of Kansas adopted a complex law that governs the inheritance rights of a surviving spouse. This law, the Kansas elective-share statute became effective January 1, 1995. The elective-share statute is based largely on the “partnership theory” of the marital relationship, and requires valuation and tracing of the assets of both the deceased spouse and the surviving spouse. These cases can become especially contentious in the context of a surviving spouse who is not also the parent of the deceased spouse’s children (blended families or step-families).

Our firm represented the surviving spouse in the leading case on the spousal elective share statute. In re Estate of Hjersted, 285 Kan. 559,175 P.3d 810 (2008). This case involved complex litigation on the valuation of a closely-held business. The non-spouse parties appealed the district court’s ruling in favor of the surviving spouse. The appellate litigation primarily concerned whether transfer tax theories of valuation discounts applied in the elective share statute. The case was ultimately argued before the Kansas Supreme Court which retained the case for more than one year before remanding the parties for further factual litigation. At that point the contesting parties settled with our client, the surviving spouse.

The State of Missouri has its own separate set of statutes that govern spousal rights upon death.  Often choosing what elections or allowances a surviving spouse should make requires a complex analysis of pending claims, valuation of assets, and assets passing by beneficiary designation or joint tenancy.