i live in Maryland . Born in the 60s . My Mother named me " Smith " , her then husbands name . ( not my biological father's ) last name . So Smith is recorded on my Birth certificate . . I was registered in school as Jones . my real dads name . I got my social security card as Jones . I got married as Jones . . at age 17 ( my mother had to sign ) so I didn't need to produce a birth certificate . to make a long story short i have divorced and remarried , Now widowed . . . Were any of my marriages legal ? ? ? I was not aware of this mess until after i married the first time . I hope you can make sense of this . . . and I used fake names here . . . my late husband had a will but his family is claiming i should be exempt because my marriage to him wasn't legal . we were married 30 yrs . thanks in advance
It appears that your question falls more directly under the category of probate, so I have added this to your practice areas. It does not appear that your marriage was illegal. Apparently, the relatives of your late husband will stop at nothing to take from you your legitimate share of your inheritance. You are probably going to need an attorney to represent your interests during probate so that you receive what you deserve from your husband's will. If what you will be receiving under the will is sufficient to make it worth the expense of an attorney, then find a probate attorney in your local area and put him/her to work protecting you.
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Nothing you've written indicates to me that any of your marriages were illegal. If you are in a situation where someone is formally challenging the Will or your marriage, you will be over your head in trying to handle it on your own. Don't waste time trying to be your own lawyer - call a lawyer and at least get a consultation. On the other hand, it is quite common in death situations for relatives (especially children by a prior marriage) to threaten and advance theories that won't hold water. If that's what's going on, time to act is perhaps not so critical. One other thing is that because there is a Will and people are making noise, I presume that someone has started probate or will soon do so. If you are doing the probate, you probably should hire a lawyer to assist you and answer these kinds of questions.
I agree with my colleagues. While I do not think your husband's relatives have a good argument, any time you are forced to deal with court proceedings, you are at a distinct disadvantage, if you do not have an attorney.
Your post actually raises a great number of issues. One of the first is the title of the assets. If everything was jointly held or named you as beneficiary, then the name/marriage issues are irrelevant, because you would automatically become the owner, by operation of law. There would not BE an estate, in this case.
Assuming your husband had assets in his name alone, then the court would look to the Will. Whether the Will could somehow be challenged on the basis of fraud or mistake is a question, but given the duration of the marriage, not a very serious one, in my view.
It is hard to understand how your husband's family would even have any knowledge of the names, I do not think a court is going to buy their arguments. The problem is, you will still need to defend this, and it could be stressful, not to mention expensive. Depending on how much money is involved, you might consider a modest "nuisance settlement."
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