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How would common law affect end of life issues?

My significant other and I have been together over 10 years, I understand that Texas is a common law state so we are technically considered to be married. We never formally got married because she does not want to lose her deceased husband's pension. Neither of us has children and we are now in our 70's, how does this affect inheritance, POA and other end of life issues?
Status: Open    Jan 16, 2016 - 11:55 AM

Elder Law, End of Life

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Expert Answers

Jan 26, 2016 - 08:28 AM

Check with a Texas Elder Law or Family Law attorney to confirm my opinion since I am not a Texas lawyer myself. But Alabama is also a common-law state and here you MUST hold yourselves out as husband and wife in order to claim that you are common-law married. This means more than living together, sleeping together and spending time together. I think that the very fact that she is still collecting her husband's pension indicates that she is either committing fraud or doesn't consider herself to be married. If you are not married in the eyes of the law then you cannot make healthcare decisions (absent a valid Healthcare Power of Attorney) or financial decisions (absent a financial power of attorney) and you certainly are not entitled to any inheritance (absent being named as a beneficiary under her will or trust). The upside of staying single is that your assets will most likely not be at risk if she enters a nursing home, nor will her assets be at risk should you enter a nursing home. Hope this clears it up.

Feb 10, 2016 - 07:52 AM

Mr. Bill Nolan provided an excellent answer. I would urge you to go see an estate planning attorney soon. I have helped people in very similar circumstances. With some planning you will not have to worry about being common-law married. You can grant each other the rights you want to including making medical decisions, receiving medical information, inheritance, financial decisions, etc.
You cannot claim on one hand to be a widow and on the other claim to be common-law married. That is the type thing that is a crime.
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