What will happen if my mom has terminal cancer and a life insurance policy with the beneficiary being her common law husband but there is no proof of the marriage?

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What will happen if my mom has terminal cancer and a life insurance policy with the beneficiary being her common law husband but there is no proof of the marriage?

And to my knowledge they do have any joint accounts or nothing in both of their names; they have live together for 15 years. I am just reaching out to see if the policy will pay out if no hard proof of them being in a common law marriage exists.

Asked on August 6, 2014 under Insurance Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If the policy names him by name (for example, it list the beneficiary as "John Doe," which is his name), he will receive the proceeds of the policy: insurance proceeds go to named beneficiaries regardless of marital or family status. 

If it lists him only as "my husband," then if they qualify to be considered to have common law spouses, it will go to him. To be considered common law spouses, there must be proof or evidence that:

1) they were both capable of being married (mentally competent; not married to anyone else);

2) intended to be married to eachy other;

3) and held each other out, or in all ways acted as, described each other as, etc. husband or wife.

If those criteria were not met or cannot be proven (such as by testimony of other people who knew them), a court will not recognize the alleged common law marriage.


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