If my mother married only to find out her husband was still married to his first wife and now she has passed without a Will, was the marriage legal?

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If my mother married only to find out her husband was still married to his first wife and now she has passed without a Will, was the marriage legal?

I am her only child.

Asked on December 4, 2014 under Estate Planning, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Assuming that there are significant assets at issue which would justify the cost of any attorney, consult with an attorney immediately about this. As a general matter, no--the marriage would not have been valid or legal, since person C cannot marry A while A is still married to B--a person may only have one spouse at a time. However, the chancery courts (which deal with, among other things, inheritance) are tasked with "doing equity"--or being fair--as well as enforcing the law. If your mother has passed, there is no opportunity for the situation to be rectified (e.g. for him to divorce, then the two of them to [re-]marry legally), so an equity court may bear that in mind in deciding how to act in a way fair to all parties. Since there are complex issues in here, you want an attorney to help you.


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