If you are getting a divorce, what happens if your spouse passes away before it is finalized? Under Pennsylvania law, if you have established grounds for divorce, the Family Court may still proceed with equitable distribution of your assets. They cannot grant a divorce posthumously, but you can still seek your share of the assets that you both accumulated while you were married. This is especially important in cases where the assets are held in your spouse's name. You will need to file a Petition to substitute your spouse's estate as the other party.
If you do not have grounds for divorce, then the divorce action will terminate and you will have to pursue your rights in Probate Court. Under the Estate laws, as a surviving spouse, you are entitled to receive in Pennsylvania 30% of your spouse's estate even if they did not include you in the will. You would have to file a Petition to seek your elective share of the estate. If you have grounds for divorce at the time your spouse has passed away, you lose your right to seek the elective share.
If you have a spouse who is ill while you are getting divorced, it may be important to make sure you have established your grounds for divorce. In Family Court, there is a greater possibility that you will receive more of the assets since it is a Court of equity. It does not mean that since your spouse died, you will receive everything, but you likely will fair better than if you have to go to Probate Court. In order to establish grounds under the no-fault statute, you either have to have both parties consent to the divorce after 90 days of service or you can move to establish the grounds after a two years separation.
For additional information see:http://www.ulmerlaw.com/Family-Law-Divorce/Grounds-for-Divorce.shtml