Prepare Your Estate Plan Case Study 4


Case Study 4 – The surviving spouse’s share


Sarah and Joe have three children. Joe worries that his wife, Sarah, seemed too eager to honor his father’s living will last year when his father had a heart attack. The more he thinks about it, the angrier he becomes. Will she be just as eager to honor his living will if she stands to inherit from him? He decides that he doesn’t want her to inherit anything from him or his family at his death, and that everything should go to their children.


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.

___ True
___ False

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

___ True
___ False

Assume that Joe has inherited his father’s fortune outright and that Joe’s estate is now worth about $5 million.

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

___ A. all of Joe’s property
___ B. one-half of Joe’s separate property and all of Joe’s community property
___ C. one-third of Joe’s property
___ D. one-fourth of Joe’s property

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

___ True
___ False

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

___ 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
___ E. all of the above
___ F. B, C, and D

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

___ A. all of his property
___ B. one-half of his property
___ C. one-third of his property
___ D. one-fourth 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 2008? (Joe’s gross estate is valued at $5 million.)

___ A. $700,000
___ B. $2 million
___ C. $5 million
___ D. none of the above

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 her state.

___ True
___ False

9. Assume that Sarah inherits the maximum amount of property allowed by law under Joe’s will and that the value of her estate in 2008 is $10 million. Also assume that Sarah is seriously injured in a car accident in January of that year. 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.

___ True
___ False

State-specific Answers to Case Study 4 Questions




North Dakota

South Dakota

Other Prepare Your Estate Plan Case Studies

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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: