Insurance And Common Law Marriage

Grand Prairie insurance lawyers will have situations where a man and woman live together and have an insurance claim. It usually has to do with a life insurance policy claim but can be any type of insurance. When it comes to insurance benefits, the issue will be one of whether or not one of them is entitled to benefits as a spouse of the other.
The Austin Court of Appeals issued an opinion related to a “common law marriage” that needs to be understood. The style of the opinion is, Karen Kuester v. Ivor Green.
This is appeal by Kuester from a summary judgment in favor of Green.
Kuester and Green started dating in 2001. In 2002, Kuester ended the relationship because Kuester wanted to get married and Green did not. Green later asked Kuester to get back together, and in 2004, Kuester moved in with Green. Kuester and Green never participated in a formal wedding ceremony, and no Texas marriage license was ever issued to them.
In May 2010, Kuester and Green ceased living together. Over two years later, Kuester sued Green for divorce and for additional causes of action. Kuester asserted that she had been in a common-law marriage with Green since 2004. Green denied that he had ever been married to Kuester.
An informal or common-law marriage exists in Texas if the parties
(1) agreed to be married,
(2) lived together in Texas as husband and wife after the agreement, and
(3) represented to others that they were married.

A common-law marriage does not exist until the concurrence of all three elements.
Kuester sued Green for divorce more than two years after their separation. Therefore, there is a rebuttable presumption that they were never married pursuant to Family Code Section 2.401(b). This presumption requires the trier-of-fact to conclude, in the absence of evidence, that the parties never agreed to be married.
Here is the evidence presented to the Court:
• Green’s affidavit asserting that he never agreed to be married to Kuester, never lived with Kuester as husband and wife, and never held himself out as married to Kuester.
• A general warranty deed showing that in 2004, after moving in with Green, Kuester sold her home and indicated that she was “an unmarried person.”
• A trust agreement Green executed in August 2004, after Kuester had moved into his residence, which contained the following statement: “For purposes of this Trust Agreement, Green and Kuester shall not be considered married, formally or informally, unless they are formally married after the issuance of a wedding license and pursuant to a formal wedding ceremony conducted by an authorized person pursuant to the laws of any applicable jurisdiction.” The trust agreement provided for Kuester in different ways depending on whether Kuester and Green were married, living together, or separated at the time of Green’s death.
• IRS income tax returns indicating that Kuester designated her filing status as “Single” for the years 2004 and 2007-2010. Kuester also amended her 2009 tax return to claim a first time home buyer’s credit, and she indicated on the form that she was single.
• An email from 2006 in which Kuester sought legal counsel to draft a prenuptial agreement. Kuester wrote the following: “I’m looking for someone to explain my rights as a ‘domestic partner’, write a prenup for me & Ivor (whose attys will then go over), and a will for me.” In a later email, Kuester wrote: “Do you want to do the prenup and I’ll still go with Sarah for the domestic partnership rights? The reason I’m still pursuing that is because I still want to know where I stand in case he gets cold feet. Again.”
• Kuester’s will, which was executed in 2007 and stated that she was “not married.”
• A general warranty deed showing that in 2009 Kuester purchased a home in her name alone.
• A police report showing that in 2010, when Kuester and Green separated, the police were summoned after Kuester accidentally discharged a firearm.
Kuester told the police that “she and her ‘life partner’ were going through a separation.”
• Kuester’s revised will, which was executed in July 2011 and stated that she was “not married.” Kuester executed another revised will in October 2011 and again indicated that she was “not married.”
• A 2011 email from Kuester to Green, in which Kuester told Green that she was going to keep the “we are not going to get married” ring he had given her.
• Medical forms from 2012, in which Kuester indicated that she was single.
This evidence conclusively negates the first element of Kuester’s claim because it establishes that Green and Kuester did not agree to be married. Kuester refers to herself as single in a number of documents completed throughout the course of their relationship. More importantly, these documents are accompanied by Green’s 2004 trust agreement, in which he explicitly stated that he did not consider himself to be and should not be considered married to Kuester unless they were formally married at a later date, and a 2006 email from Kuester, in which Kuester sought a prenuptial agreement because she believed that Green may continue to have “cold feet” about getting married. Kuester’s email implies that the couple was not presently married and expresses doubts that they ever would be.
The Court sustained the summary judgment ruling in favor of Green.
This case is an example of how to prove a common law marriage did not exist.

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