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Wife barred from inheritance because of adulterous relationship

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that a woman’s relationship outside of her marriage prevents her from inheriting from her deceased husband’s estate.

Renada Fay Hannebaum moved out of the marital residence she shared with Stephen Hannebaum on Aug. 1, 2007, and later filed for divorce. The divorce was never finalized, and Stephen died intestate in April 2011.

Renada paid for the funeral and asked the court to name her personal representative. Stephen’s son and mother objected, and they were appointed as personal representatives. The trial court determined that Renada forfeited her right to inherit from Stephen’s estate.

She argued that the evidence didn’t establish that she was living in adultery at the time of Stephen’s death and that she voluntarily abandoned him.

Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard pointed out that the evidence, when looked at together, suggests Renada had a sexual relationship with Doug Wilson. She admitted to dating him after separating from her husband, she said she spent some nights alone with him at his home, and a private investigator testified he saw her enter Wilson’s home through the garage by punching in a code.

Renada also argued she left the home to escape abuse, but the only identified instance of abuse before the trial court occurred after she had already moved out.

“As for whether Renada left Stephen permanently rather than temporarily, we think that a court can find permanent departure where, as here, a spouse leaves the marital residence, files for dissolution, and remains away for roughly four years, notwithstanding the fact that a final decree of dissolution had not been issued,” Shepard wrote in In the Matter of the Estate of Stephen T. Hannebaum, Deceased, Renada Fay Hannebaum v. Mary Rebecca Hannebaum and Stephen T. Hannebaum, II, as Personal Representatives of Stephen T. Hannebaum, 81A05-1301-ES-17.

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