Georgia wrongful death law is very specific as to who can bring a claim. The surviving spouse and children get the highest priority. When there is no spouse and there are no children, the parents of the decedent can sue. If none of these exist, a representative of the estate can sue for the benefit of “next of kin”. If you were in a common law marriage, you will face some hurdles in your Georgia wrongful death claim. Georgia no longer allows common law marriage, but you may still be eligible to file a wrongful death claim as a spouse, depending on the circumstances.
Common Law Marriage in Georgia
Georgia stopped allowing common law marriages to be formed in 1997. Common law marriages formed in the state prior to 1997 are still considered valid. Georgia also recognizes common law marriages formed validly in other states. Having said all of that, even if you know that your common law marriage is valid, you may need the help of an experienced attorney to prove it. Opposing parties may try to bar your claim.
You May Even Have to Fight Family
As painful and ugly as it is, you may also face opposition from other family members. If there is a surviving spouse, the only other beneficiaries allowed are the children and they have to share the money with the spouse. If there is no spouse and no children, the parents can collect it all and if there are no parents, the pot is opened up to other family members. Any of them may try to say that you were not really married so that they can become the beneficiary.
If you are planning to sue for wrongful death as a common law spouse, please talk to an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney right away.