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Lansing – The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a woman can inherit from her husband’s estate despite living apart for more than 30 years.

The court in a 4-3 decision issued Tuesday affirmed rulings by lower courts in a dispute about the relationship between Maggie Erwin and her late husband, James Erwin Sr.

The Erwins were married in 1968 and had four children, but the Saginaw couple didn’t live together after 1976. James Erwin died in 2012 without a will.

Michigan law says a spouse can lose inheritance rights if he or she was “willfully absent” for a year or more. Maggie Erwin’s lawyer had argued that the couple maintained emotional bonds and the court’s majority agreed that emotional ties must be considered in addition to physical separation.

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