Does a common law wife or significant partner have rights to deceased partner’s money when he passes if he just inherited it?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Does a common law wife or significant partner have rights to deceased partner’s money when he passes if he just inherited it?

I lived with this man on and off for 30 years’ at the time of his passing we were together. He just recently inherited from his mother whose money was still in probate at the time of his passing. Do I have any rights in this at all?

Asked on August 21, 2016 under Estate Planning, Iowa


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A "significant other" has no legal rights to their late partner's estate; merely living with someone does not automatically impart legal rights. However, if a valid common law marriage was formed as per state statute, then a common law wife has the same rights to inherit from a deceased husband as does a wife from a traditional marriage. Since your husband survived his mother, even though he died before the close of probate on her estate, he was entitled to inherit from her. In turn, as his wife, you would be entitled to receive the inheritance from his mother's estate. The foregoing presumes that your state recognizes common law marriage and all formalities for establishing such a marriage were met. At this point, you should consult directly with a local attorney for further advise as to your situation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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