Advance Directives Case Study 4 North Dakota Answers

Case Study 4 – The surviving spouse’s share

Answers for North Dakota Residents

The following answers are based upon North Dakota law as of January 2006. The
laws in other states may be different. Laws are subject to change, so please ask
your attorney for answers to specific questions.

1. Assume that Joe and Sarah own their home as community property. If Joe’s will leaves the home to their three children, and he dies before Sarah, the children will inherit the home.

North Dakota answer: It depends.
One half of the house already belongs to Sarah. The other half may be subject to certain spousal elections by Sarah.

2. If Joe and Sarah own everything with a right of survivorship, Joe is wasting his time writing a will.

North Dakota answer: False.
Sometimes such survivorship accounts may be presumed to be in the estate, especially if it is not real estate.

3. If Joe dies before he can write his will, Sarah will inherit:

North Dakota answer: B.
A portion of Joe’s separate property and all of Joe’s joint property.

4. Joe can disinherit Sarah by leaving her $1 under his will.

North Dakota answer: False.

5. The following options can be successful in disinheriting a spouse:

North Dakota answer: E. All of the above (A, B, C, and D).
Possibly all of the following:
A. Writing the spouse out of the will.
B. Prenuptial agreement
C. Post-nuptial agreement
D. Failure of surviving spouse to claim elective share within time allowed.

6. Assume that Sarah convinces Joe of her undying love and devotion. Under his will, Joe can leave Sarah at most:

North Dakota answer: A.
All of his property.

7. If Sarah inherits the maximum amount of property allowed by law under Joe’s will, how much will be exempted from federal estate tax at Joe’s death, if he dies in the year 2003? (Joe’s gross estate is valued at $5 million.)

North Dakota answer: C.
$5 million.
There is currently an unlimited marital deduction, so all property passing to Sarah is free of tax.

8. If Sarah inherits the maximum amount of property allowed by law under Joe’s will, she can skip most of the probate process in North Dokata.

North Dakota answer: False.
Depending on nature of assets and value of estate.

9. Assume that Sarah inherits the maximum amount of property allowed by law under Joe’s will, and by the year 2008, the value of her estate is $10 million. Also assume that Sarah is seriously injured in a car accident in January 2008. She is diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and could be kept alive by feeding tubes for years. Her living will states that she does not want to be kept alive by extraordinary means or by feeding tubes if she is diagnosed in this condition. In spite of the huge medical costs, her children will have financial motivation to keep her alive for several years.

North Dakota answer: True.

Return to Advance Directives Case Study 4.

View the Communicate Your Advance Directives for Health Care learning lesson.


Adapted for use in the Legally Secure Your Financial Future: Organize, Communicate, Prepare program.

Content Development by:
Carol A. Schwab, J.D., LL.M.,
Former Professor and Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University.

This document is for non-profit educational purposes only. This document may not be used by a profit-making company or organization. When used by a non-profit organization, appropriate credit must be given to the Cooperative Extension Legally Secure Your Financial Future: Organize, Communicate, Prepare education program. Materials for this program were developed by a team from six land-grant universities. The program is included in the program toolkit of the Cooperative Extension Financial Security in Later Life national initiative. For more information go to: