Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Secret Marriage Could Be Voided After Death


Before Nancy Ellen Laubenheimer died in 2009, boyfriend Joseph McLeod checked her out of her nursing home to obtain a marriage license and get married at the courthouse, unbeknownst to family, friends, or the nursing home.

Now, McLeod is petitioning for administration of her estate and appointment as personal representative, arguing her 1999 will leaving her estate to her stepchildren is invalid.  The stepchildren are petitioning the same, arguing McLeod has no rights because his marriage is invalid.

A Wisconsin trial court sided with McLeod, finding annulment was the only way to void the marriage, which isn’t possible after a spouse has died.  On certification from an appellate court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found the marriage can be voided if it was prohibited by law, but declined to rule on the marriage’s validity.  The supreme court did rule the trial court has jurisdiction and the marriage will be presumed valid, with the burden on the stepchildren to prove it’s void by clear and convincing evidence.

See Jeff D. Gorman, Stepmom’s Marriage May Be Voided After Death, Courthouse News Service, July 18, 2013.


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