It is not very common that a person dies during the pendency of their divorce. What happens in that situation? How is property distributed?

Certain rights come with marriage by law. If an individual does not have a will, their property first passes to their spouse; the amount of property to the spouse may vary depending on circumstances, but the first portion of it will always pass in that way. Further, a spouse is able to claim a specific portion of an estate even if there is a will that does not specify they would receive that amount. In addition, if you are married your spouse is your beneficiary on retirement and life insurance unless they waive that right.

If a person dies during the pendency of the divorce proceedings, the property passes to the spouse as the parties are still married. It does not matter that there are proceedings that clearly show the parties do not get along. Until a judge signs a final divorce decree and it is entered by the court, the parties are legally married and entitled to all legal rights and privileges that come with it.