Question 1: What is an elective share?
All states have laws that prevent spouses from disinheriting one another. These laws are known as elective shares, or sometimes as spousal shares. When you die, your spouse is automatically entitled to inherit a specific portion of your estate. How much depends upon the state in which you live, but regardless of where you live all spouses are entitled to inherit something.
Question 2: How much of a share do I get?
That depends on your state as well as the circumstances surrounding the death. For example, in some states a spouse is entitled to the entire estate if the deceased spouse did not leave behind any children. If there were children left behind by the deceased spouse, the spouse might inherit, for example, the first $50,000 of the estate plus half of the remainder, with the other half getting divided between any children.
Question 3: What if my spouse left an inheritance? Do I still get the elective share?
Maybe. They are called “elective” shares because the surviving spouse has the option of choosing the share instead of any inheritance the deceased spouse left. For example, if your husband dies and leaves you $1 million, you can choose to inherit that or opt for the amount the elective share would give you. You cannot choose both, but you can choose to either take the elective share or refuse it.