Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Act of Adultery Does Not Defeat Claim to Spouse's Estate

MarriageA couple from Kentucky married in 2004 and separated about 4 months later. In the course of that time, the wife obtained a domestic violence order against her estranged husband, filed for divorce, and started a relationship with another man. Her estranged husband died in a work-related accident only a month later. During the course of their separation, the wife entered into a relationship with another man. The administratix of his estate, the mother of the husband, claimed that the ex-wife should not receive any of her share of the estate because she committed adultery while they were still legally married. In fact, the man that the wife started the relationship with even signed an affidavit stating that she and him had sexual relations the night before her estranged husband died. The mother claimed that the probate code states that if a person commits adultery, that person forfeits his or her spouse's estate.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky held in Griffin v. Rice that the one incident of adultery is not enough to activate the state's statute against allowing adulters from inheriting from his or her former spouse. The court stated that "while the adulterous activity need not be with the same person, it must be 'periodic or recurring, a sustained or notorious activity.'" In other words, the court stated that a person must commit more than one act of adultery. 

See One Act of Adultery Doesn't Defeat Claim to Deceased Spouse's Estate, Family Law Reporter, Sept. 27, 2012.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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