August 18, 2019

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Alabama Common Law Marriage and Wrongful Death Claims

Alabama wrongful death law is highly unusual. Only punitive damages are available, and the payout is distributed to the heirs of the deceased according to Alabama’s laws of intestate succession, even if there is a will. This automatically entitles the surviving spouse to some or all of the proceeds. If you were in a common-law marriage, you will have to prove it, and you may be facing opposition from other family members who stand to collect if they can get your claim on the money out of the way. An experienced Alabama wrongful death attorney can help.

Common Law Marriage in Alabama

As of January 1, 2017, no new common law marriages can be formed in Alabama. Common law marriages formed before 2017 are recognized as valid, but must meet the state’s requirements for forming common law marriage and can be difficult to prove.

Alabama’s requirements for common law marriage formed before 2017 include:

  • Both partners must have been 19 years old or older, of sound mind, and not married to anyone else
  • You must have represented yourselves to others as married
  • You must have had intercourse

Additionally, if you were planning to enter a formal marriage at a later date, this can work against you.

Intestate Succession

When someone dies “intestate” it means they died without a will. Intestate succession details how money and property are divided between heirs when someone dies without a will. In Alabama wrongful death cases, the proceeds are divided among the heirs according to intestate succession, even if there is a will.

Alabama intestate succession laws are complicated. The surviving spouse gets all or part of the money, depending on whether the deceased has living children or parents. If there is no surviving spouse, it all goes to the children. If none are living, it all goes to the parents, and if there are no living parents, it all goes to the siblings of the deceased.

To learn how to protect your wrongful death claim as a common-law spouse, please contact an experienced Alabama wrongful death attorney today.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.