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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 5 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.


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