If there is one area of the law that is most misunderstood by the public, it is common-law marriages. There are many who think that if you and your partner have been living together for a certain amount of time, typically between three and seven years, you are automatically married through common-law. This is not true anywhere in the United States.
While common-law marriage does exist, it is much more strictly regulated than these commonly held myths would have you believe. Let’s take a look at common-law marriage and how it can impact your estate plan.
Question 1: How do you become common-law married?
To become married through common-law, you must first live in one of the ten states that accepts common-law marriage. In order to get married under common-law, you and your partner must agree to be married, hold yourself out to the general public as a married couple, and meet the state’s marital requirements. Otherwise, you are not a common-law married couple no matter how long you have lived together.
Question 2: Do I have rights as a common-law spouse?
Yes. If you meet the requirements for common-law marriage you and your partner are legally married. Your marriage is identical to every other legal marriage out there. This means you have the right to inherit from each other when the other spouse dies. It also means that you can only end in marriage by getting an annulment or a divorce.