My life partner was recently murdered. At the time of his death I had an unrestricted (meaning it included all areas...medical, finances, etc.) durable power of attorney that we signed about a year ago which he never revoked. We've been together over 15 years and have always considered ourselves married, have said as much to one another and to many others. We've wanted to marry officially since the Supreme Court decision in July, but he had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear that we've been working with an attorney to get resolved so he could get his driver license renewed and also get married because he would've been arrested had we tried. The medical examiner wouldn't recognize me as next of kin and said the durable power of attorney ended when my partner died. They then named his mother as next of kin. I'm basically being ignored. Does the power of attorney not speak plainly to the fact that right up until the second he died he desired me to handle his affairs and not his mother who he just as easily could have assigned as his agent instead but did not?
Sorry for the loss.
The PoA expired upon the death of your partner. You might want to investigate whether or not you had a "common law" marriage.
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I agree with Attorney von Dohlen. The challenge in your case is that the POA expired at the time of your life partner's death. In addition to researching the question of whether you both qualified as being in a "common law marriage" under the laws of the State of Texas, please carefully research the beneficiary designations that your life partner may have executed. For example, he may have named you as the beneficiary of his retirement accounts and/or life insurance policies. If so designated, you will receive these assets no matter what your marital status. Good luck to you.
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It is true - POA ends at death. It may be among some facts you could use regarding the common law marriage issue. The law is clear that if someone dies without a will there is line of heirs at law and the only way you could be included is if you are considered a spouse. If he had drafted a will this would be a different story - yet another reason to do estate planning. Very sorry for your situation.
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature.
Unfortunately, your circumstances demonstrate the kinds of reasons that one should have a will, regardless of one's age or health. The tragedy of your partner's death is compounded by the financial issues you face. My colleagues correctly point out that you should investigate whether you could be considered a common-law spouse under the laws of your state (an issue that I, as a NY attorney, can't address). You should also try to ascertain whether any accounts your partner had were jointly held or whether you were a designated beneficiary on any account. The power of attorney that you had may be useful only in helping to establish facts related to the possible common-law marriage.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
I agree that the Power of Attorney expired on your partner's death. Texas Estates Code 751.054 is clear that the POA terminates on the principal's [your partner's] death. The medical examiner and any funeral home will not recognize you because there is another Texas statute that identifies who has the rights over the disposition (burial/cremation/etc) of a person who has passed away. Texas Health & Safety Code 711.002 says that unless a person has followed the terms of the statute by creating a written instrument controlling the disposition of remains (sometimes called a "funerary directive" or "Appointment of Agent for Disposition of Remains" then Texas law says that the order of priority of decision making is (1) surviving spouse [hence the appropriate question of whether you and partner had a common law marriage] then (2) surviving adult children; then (3) surviving parents; then (4) surviving adult siblings; then (5) executor or administrator of estate. Should you meet the requirements for a common law marriage in Texas, you would amount to "surviving spouse" whose rights move towards the top of the list. Given the circumstances described in your question, I suspect that it would take a legal fight. I recommend that you consult with a qualified probate or family law attorney to help you work through those requirements and decide what rights you may have, and if so, how best to protect them. These circumstances are why every person over the age of 18 should have proper estate planning for their circumstances.
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