July 18, 2019

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Massachusetts Wrongful Death – Do I Qualify as a Spouse?

The loss of a life partner, due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, causes unimaginable grief that money cannot alleviate. Discovering that your commonwealth will not allow you to pursue justice as a spouse only adds insult to injury. To find out if you have spousal rights under Massachusetts wrongful death law and what your options are if you do not, you need to talk to an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer about your unique circumstances. In the meantime, here are some of the basics.

Common Law Marriage in Massachusetts

You cannot, and never have been able to, form a common-law marriage in Massachusetts. But, your common-law marriage will be recognized if it was validly formed in another state. Only a few states allow common law marriages to be formed, and a few more used to but don’t now. You will have to prove that your common law marriage was valid.

Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions

In two separate cases, in 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that Vermont civil unions and California domestic partnerships are the equivalent of marriage in Massachusetts. If you were in a civil union or domestic partnership, talk to an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death attorney about your rights and how to pursues them.

Survival Action

If you are not an eligible wrongful death beneficiary because you are not considered a spouse, in Massachusetts, you may benefit from a survival action by the estate. A survival action is different from wrongful death. It is the claim the deceased person would have had for pain and suffering if he or she had not died from the injuries. The estate can receive compensation for the deceased’s conscious pain and suffering that occurred between the time of injury and death.

If you are in your partner’s will, this can increase your inheritance.

To learn more about your legal rights, please contact an experienced Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer right away.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.