Does my new wife automatically own my house?

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Q. I bought a home in my previous marriage. Does my new wife own the house?
— Trying again

A. Based on what you described, the answer is no.

Remarriage alone does not automatically entitle the “new” spouse to an ownership interest in a premarital home, said Thomas Roberto, a family law attorney with Adinolfi, Molotsky, Burick & Falkenstein in Haddonfield.

He said premarital assets generally remain the property of the spouse who brought the asset into the marriage, although there are certain exceptions that could apply. That could include situations where a home was acquired “in contemplation of the marriage,” or where the home is retitled in the names of both spouses during the course of the marriage, neither of which appear to be applicable here.

“Even then, however, there is still the potential for the surviving spouse to make a claim against the estate of the deceased spouse based on the value of the estate, which would include the value of any real estate,” Roberto said.

In New Jersey, a surviving spouse may be entitled to an “elective share” of the deceased spouse’s estate, which generally equates to one-third of the augmented estate of the deceased spouse. This may be the case even if the deceased spouse takes steps to disinherit the surviving spouse, he said.

“This would of course not entitle the surviving spouse to become the de facto owner of the marital home,” he said. “But it would give the surviving spouse the ability to receive his or her elective share which is based on the overall value of the estate, including the value of the deceased spouse’s premarital home.”

Email your questions to moc.p1566400664leHye1566400664noMJN1566400664@ksA1566400664.

This story was originally published July 15, 2019.

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