Woman who didn't live with late husband seeks inheritance

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Can a woman inherit from her husband's estate if they lived apart for more than 30 years?

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a dispute about the relationship between Maggie Erwin and her late husband, James Erwin Sr. The case could break new ground in estate law.

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. But the law doesn't define "willfully absent."

Maggie Erwin's attorney says she still maintained "emotional bonds" with James Erwin. Valerie Kutz-Otway says it's a "crazy world," and spouses live separately for many reasons.

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