As a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer, I learned that Florida did not recognize common law marriages. About a week ago, the founding partner of Wood Atter, came into my office and asked me about an estate plan involving a couple that were married under the common law many years ago.
Later I discovered that common law marriages prior to 1969 were valid in Florida. I asked some divorce Lawyers some questions and learned, that once married under the common law, you must still be divorced in a court. The divorce is the same process as with a traditional marriage.
Then I began to think that with the number of people who separate and never get divorced, there must be some estate plans had the potential for disruption because of an unreported common law marriage.
For example, a Husband and Wife were married under common law in Florida prior to 1969. They are later separated but not officially divorced. There would not be an official record of their marriage, so when one dies, there is an opportunity for the property of the estate to be distributed incorrectly.
If you were married through common law and now live in Florida It is important for you to have a Valid Florida Will that represents your wishes, if you are sepearted from your spouse and married either under the common law or by the state, you need to evaluate your Florida Estate Plan to make sure you assets are distributed as you desire.
Florida has some unique benefits for the spouse, if you were married under the common law and not divorced in a court, and your spouse died in Florida, you are probably entitled to some or all of your spouses assets. You should talk with an Jacksonville Florida or other estate planning attorney where your spouse lives or where your spouse died.