Widow's Election Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Widow's Election, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Widow's Election?

(n) The law of succession prevailing in the states entitle the widow of the deceased husband certain rights on the property of the deceased man. If the husband has executed a legally enforceable will, she is also entitled to succeed the deceased man’s property as per the will. Widows election gives a choice to the widow to select one of the choices stated above.

History and Meaning of Widow's Election

Widow's Election is a legal term that refers to the right of a widow to choose between her entitlements in her husband's will or her rights under the law of succession. In the past, under common law, a widow was entitled to only a portion of her husband's estate. However, the right of the widow to elect between the rights under the will or the law of succession has now largely been adopted by state laws in the United States.

The purpose of the widow's election is to allow the widow to make an informed choice after the death of her husband. If the husband made a will before his death, the widow may elect to take the property left to her under the will. However, if the property left to her in the will is less than the property she would receive under the law of succession, she can elect to take the latter. This ensures that the widow receives the maximum amount of property possible.

Examples of Widow's Election

  1. After her husband's death, Jane had to decide between taking the property left to her in his will or her entitlements under the law of succession. She consulted with her attorney and ultimately made the election to take the property under her husband's will.

  2. Despite her husband leaving her a substantial amount of property in his will, Mary made the election to take her entitlements under the law of succession instead.

  3. The widow's election was introduced to ensure that widows had the right to make an informed choice about their entitlements to their husband's property after their death.

Legal Terms Similar to Widow's Election

  1. Spousal right of election: This is a related concept that refers to the right of a surviving spouse to receive a share of their deceased spouse's estate, regardless of what is mentioned in the will.

  2. Intestate succession: This refers to the legal rules which determine how a deceased person's property is distributed in the absence of a valid will.

  3. Probate: This is the legal process that takes place after a person's death to prove the validity of a will and distribute the assets of the deceased person.