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I am from the state of Ohio. My life's partner just recently…

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I am from the state...
I am from the state of Ohio. My life's partner just recently passed and I am wondering what my legal rights are as a common law wife. We met in June 1985 and moved in together in 1989.
Submitted: 6 months ago.Category: Estate Law
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Answered in 22 minutes by:
1/5/2018
Estate Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 6 months ago
Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 32,264
Experience: Lawyer.
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Hi,

My name is ***** ***** I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm very sorry for your loss.

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Estate Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 6 months ago

A valid common law marriage entered in Ohio before 1991 is a legal, valid marriage. You are awarded all the same rights as a spouse who obtained a marriage license before getting married. The key is proving that you and your partner created a valid common law marriage. Marriage is a contract, which requires the consent of both parties. Contrary to popular belief, it can never be created simply by living together for an extended period of time. The state doesn't want people to accidentally find themselves married because they weren't looking at a calendar.

To establish a valid common law marriage, you'll need to prove:

  • That the two of you lived together as spouses.
  • The two of you exchanged mutual promises to be married in the present and not at some unstated future date.
  • The promises were exchanged before October 10, 1991.
  • You were both over the age of 18 and legally capable of entering into a contract at the time the promises were exchanged.
  • Neither of you had a living spouse at the time.
  • You held yourselves out to the community as a married couple. This can include filing joint tax returns, using terms such as "my husband/my wife", telling people you're married, etc.
  • Your reputation in the community was of a married couple.

If you meet those requirements, you'll get a spousal share of the estate. That will likely require going to court to establish the validity of the marriage, especially if there are other heirs who might dispute your claim. When a person passes away without a will, the spousal share is:

  • the entire estate, if there are no children/other descendants or if all children/descendants are also yours.
  • If your partner has other children from a different relationship, you would get the first $20,000 of the estate, plus half of everything else. The children/descendants would share the other half equally.

Note that any assets held by the two of you as joint tenants with a right of survivorship automatically belong to you, whether you can prove the marriage or not. Those assets are not part of the estate. If you were the named beneficiary on any retirement accounts or other assets, that's also not part of the estate. Those would become yours as well.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reply WITHOUT RATING so I may address them. My goal is to provide you with excellent customer service. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so I get credit for assisting you today. Mobile users may have to scroll to the right. Thank you.

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Estate Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 6 months ago

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