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Q/A: Inheritance and Texas Common Law Marriages

Question/Concern:

"One of the issues I see is when there is no marriage- couple been together for years but never put anything in writing and then one of them dies and now the family is kicking the other party to the curb, not being a part of the funeral arrangements etc. That is something that needs to be addressed since so many do not understand how common law, property, children etc" - JoJo, Facebook

Inheritance and Texas Common Law Marriages

If you are married and your spouse dies, the laws of inheritance in Texas are fairly straightforward. If, on the other hand, you lived with your partner for many years but were never formally married, the situation can become much more complicated. While Texas recognizes common law marriages and affords a common law spouse the same rights to inheritance as a formally married spouse, the burden is on you to show that your relationship rose to the level of a common law marriage. An experienced and compassionate Central Texas family law attorney can help.

Intestate Succession Laws

Under Texas’ intestate succession laws, if someone dies without a will, his or her assets go to the closest relative(s). The closest relative is the deceased's spouse if he or she is married. These laws cover those assets that your partner owned in his or her own name, and these assets will be passed to you as his or her spouse. If yours was a common law marriage and there are other family members or children of the deceased involved, things can get very complicated very quickly. Just because the State of Texas recognizes common law marriages does not mean that your common-law spouse's family members will see things the same way – and they might be inclined to fight for what they believe is theirs.

Texas Common Law Marriage

If you were formally married, it is easy to prove that you have a marital relationship. If yours is a common law marriage, the burden of proof is on the party seeking to enforce the marriage, and one of two circumstances must be present:

  1. You and your common law spouse agreed that you were married, lived together in Texas after coming to that agreement, and represented yourself to others as a married couple.

  2. You and your common law spouse signed a Declaration of Marriage.

If your common law spouse dies, you must legally establish that you were in a common law marriage before you will be determined as the closest relative. If you fail to do so within the two-year statute of limitations, there will likely be a rebuttal presumption that yours was not a common law marriage.

Protect Your Rights

If you and your partner lived together in a common law marriage, you have the same rights that anyone else does upon the death of his or her spouse. The difference is that you must set about proving that your relationship was, indeed, a common law marriage. This can give you more traction with your partner’s relatives when it comes to vying for an inheritance. Protect your rights by retaining an experienced Central Texas family law attorney.

If Your Inheritance from a Common Law Marriage Is in Question, You Need an Experienced Central Texas Family Law Attorney

If your common law spouse died without leaving a will, it will likely make things more difficult for you. Attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Central Texas has the experience, skill, and compassion to help you establish the legitimacy of your common law marriage and to aggressively advocate for what is rightfully yours. For more information, please contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.
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