The entitlements for a spouse in Rhode Island are markedly different than surviving spouse rights in most other states.
A spouse in Rhode Island is automatically entitled to a life estate in the value of all real estate owned by the decedent. In lieu of the life estate, the surviving spouse can elective to receive the value of the life estate, up to $150,000, from the estate.
The surviving spouse is also entitled to receive furnishings, household effects, supplies and other personal property exempt from attachment by law.
Exercise of the elective share right must be accomplished by petitioning the probate court within six months of the appointment of a fiduciary.
At our law firm, we have had experience navigating the life estate issues for spouses dealing with Rhode Island property. For valuable real estate, neither the life estate, nor the cash entitlement, is often the best result for spouses or the other family members. There may planning methods to avoid the imposition of the forced life estate law, such as placing real estate into entities prior to death. Consultation with a Rhode Island estate planning attorney is highly recommended.