Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma and Estate Planning
Estate planning is important for couples in common law marriages because this type of marriage is unique and not fully understood. A common law marriage is created when a couple lives together and represents themselves as a married couple. No ceremony or licensing is required to establish a common-law marriage, although a couple may be able to officially record the existence of their marriage with a state or county court.
Issues may come up during a health crisis or after an unexpected death, when a child of the decedent may want to assert their relationship with the deceased over the common law spouse. In such situations, a common law spouse may not get to make critical health care or financial decisions for their partner and may have to fight to receive their partner's property.
If you are in a common law marriage, you and your partner can protect yourselves and your families from difficulty and confusion by laying out your wishes in your estate plan. If your estate plan is clear—about your health care wishes, who should make decisions on your behalf, and what should happen to your property—any confusion about your marital status will have less of an impact because the key legal issues will be addressed by your documents.
Fortunately, the state of Oklahoma does recognize common law marriage. This does not mean that there are won’t be conflicts or issues that arise after the death of a common law spouse. Play it safe. Get your end-of-life wishes down on paper now to avoid any difficulty in the future.