If my dad had a “common law wife” after he divorced my mom 35 years ago and leftall tohis”wife”can we fight the Will?

My father died a year ago and lived in MD. Was not married to women he lived with. Do my 2 brothers and I have any claim to his estate? I was 13 when my parents divorced.

Asked on November 4, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the issues that have arisen since your Father's passing.  You need to consult with an attorney in the area as soon as you can.  Only none states at this point in time recognize common law marriage.  And although Maryland is not one of them, you list your state as Pennsylvannia which, if the marriage was entered in to there before January 1, 2005, did recognize common law marriages.  Additionally, if they ever held them selves out as husband and wife in a common law marriage state or area (DC being one) then that may be enough coupled with other factors to consider .  And if the marriage was considered valid at the time it was entered in to then Maryland would recognize the union as a valid one.  The other elements to consider here like if they held them selves out to be married: filed joint tax returns, had joint accounts held as spouses, held real property as husband and wife, etc.  Please seek legal help.  Good luck.

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