A Challenge to the Administration of an Estate is Denied: The Latter Marriage Held to be Valid

wills preparation and litigation attorneySurrogate Edward McCarty, III, sitting in Nassau County Surrogate’s Court, recently had a case before him involving issues concerning the validity of a marriage.  A man had died and an administration proceeding was brought in the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court.  The petitioner in this administration proceeding was named Aquije.  She was the surviving spouse of the decedent.

The decedent had children from a prior marriage.  They filed objections to the administration proceeding.  They claimed that their father was originally married in 1969 in Chile.  They also claimed that this Chilean marriage was still valid because there was never a divorce.  Therefore, they claimed the marriage to Aquije was not valid because at the time of the marriage their father was still married.

Judge McCarty held a hearing with regard to the issues presented in this case.  At the time of the hearing the marriage certificate concerning the 1969 Chilean marriage was submitted as well as death certificates which listed Aquije as the surviving spouse of the decedent.  Aquije also presented into evidence the marriage certificate from New York State showing that she was married to the decedent in 1997.

Judge McCarty’s Decision

Judge McCarty found the decedent had been married on four occasions.  He also found the decedent lived with Aquije from 1997 for a period of 14 years until his death in the year 2011.  He ruled there were two ceremonial marriages.  He stated in his decision there is a strong presumption the latter marriage was a valid marriage.  He went on to state in cases involving issues concerning the invalidity of the marriage, those individuals challenging the marriage had to meet a high burden of proof.  Judge McCarty’s decision was the objections that were filed concerning the administration proceeding did not overcome the strong presumption that Aquije was married to the decedent for fourteen years.  The objections were therefore dismissed and the administration proceeding was allowed to move forward.

estate planning and administrationElliot S. Schlissel is an attorney who has been litigating estate issues for more than thirty five years.  Elliot drafts wills.  He probates wills.  He litigates issues concerning the validity of wills.  He is available for consultations.