It breaks my heart to even write to you about this, but I honestly believe my pain will help someone else. I met an amazing man about 15 years ago, and after dating for a while, we decided to be exclusive. As usual, I asked if he had any open relationships anywhere, and he told me that he was married for some time, but he and his wife went their separate ways for over 10 years. I was skeptical at first, but after dating him for some time, it was clear to me, no other woman was present besides myself. So, we happily became exclusive, traveled, and we moved in together.
He suddenly died due to COVID-19 earlier this year, and that is when my idyllic life became a nightmare that I would wish on no one! As I planned his funeral, and we got to the gravesite because there was no service due to the deadly virus, a woman walked up and identified herself as his wife. My mouth dropped in the middle of my grief, because the love of my life had assured me he was divorced.
Only for me to realize saome weeks later, that his pension and his insurance monies all went to the woman he had not spent a day with in over 25 years. I am heartbroken and I have no idea where to turn at this point. I am grieving for love that is no more, and I am grieving the loss of my common sense. In all my loving this man, it never occurred to me to protect what we had by asking simple questions. Please use my story as an example to help other women or men, who may find themselves in this situation. One more thing- do I have any recourse into gaining some of these monies since we have been together for almost 20 years? Can I contest his estate as a common-law wife? Please help me to make sense of this.
Signed lost and turned out
Dear Lost and turned out,
I wish I could say that your story was a unique one. Unfortunately, this scenario plays out far too often in relationships. It seems to me that because you saw no other woman, that you were living with this man happily, and whatever you needed he made sure you had, so you felt safe and protected in what was a really good relationship for you both. The issue at hand is that unless he had a will that specifically stated you were to access his pension and his insurance money, the law only recognizes his wife even if they have been separated for 100 years. There are plenty of spouses who refuse to get a divorce, because they are aware of that loophole should the person they left behind die. I empathize with you, and so, I checked in with a local lawyer Rhonda Anderson, who has this advice below:
“Unfortunately, unfinished business can create legal woes when people separate and never get divorced. If the estranged spouse dies, their will or the state’s laws dictate who inherits their property. In this situation, since a divorce did not occur, the wife may inherit all or most of the property if there is no will. So, while they may have been apart and he moved on to a new relationship, it is possible that his wife still inherits a portion of the estate. Also, Pennsylvania does not recognize common law marriage anymore.”
While you continue to process your grief and disappointment, I would advise you moving forward to ask the questions and see corroborating paperwork from your partner so that you may never find yourself in this situation ever again. It is my prayer that you will find love once more as your heart heals, but that you will do things a little differently moving forward. You had amazing years with your love, and that is something that should be gratifying to you, even though you saw no monetary value after his death. Good luck and take care.
Contact information for the lawyer: Rhonda M. Anderson, Esquire
Anderson Law Group
I have a 42-year-old son that lives in the basement of my home with my husband and me. I am writing to you because with my son still being home, it is causing a problem between my husband and I, who says that I coddled our boy and he has no earthly use to anyone, [is]not able to find a decent job, and I consistently help him get out of trouble. I think my husband resents me, but I thought I was protecting a Black boy from harm in this country by giving him all that he may have needed. I realize now that I should’ve put some boundaries in place early on in his life, when I stopped his father from being a disciplinarian, from setting rules, and fully protected my child.
In my mind, the world was tough enough, and our home should be a safe space for our children. The other day, my son looked at me and told me it was my fault that he was not able to live a full and productive life. I was so hurt! How could he not see that I had his best interests at heart all those years ago? Do I have blinders on? Why are they blaming me? Our daughter has gone on to get her PhD, owns her own home, and is thriving in life. Where did I go wrong? Help me please!
Signed, Doing my best
Dear Doing My Best,
What you just described above, is what we call a “situation!”
It sounds to me that in your efforts to make sure that your son felt loved in a world that is anything but loving to him, that you took some extraordinary steps with no boundaries to keep him even-keeled from childhood to an adult. It is incredibly possible to love your child and teach them how to thrive in society as they grow. It sounds like in protecting your son, you allowed him to take no responsibility for any actions that may have required his learning life lessons to right his wrongs. The frustration that your husband feels makes absolute sense; he saw back then what you chose to ignore, and understood that a boy can never become a man if he never learns from his mistakes or accept his roles and responsibilities in creating those mistakes.
As a direct result, every time he had a problem, he expected you to fix it, and you did. Now as a full-blown adult, he is unable to make decisions for growth in his life and finds himself living in your basement, because he does not have the tools to keep a job and take care of himself. I would strongly suggest that you listen to your husband and make some decisions that may feel hard on the front end, but what you do not wantl is for you and your husband to die, leaving a son who will most certainly struggle to make basic life choices. You also do not want to leave him as a burden on your daughter, who you clearly raised differently.
Make him find a job and pay you rent. Make him take responsibility for keeping his areas clean, and make him pay for any bills he accrues, like a cell phone. Teach him how to save his money and do not give him access to your vehicles, if he has no car insurance or refuses to pay for any. Those are simple ways to start, but make no mistake about it, you have a long road ahead. Work with your husband and begin to undo the years of work that led to this place. You will cry and be extremely uncomfortable in the process, but it is worth it in the long-term for your son, your peace of mind, and your marriage. Good luck!
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational/entertainment purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its author, the Philadelphia Sunday SUN newspaper and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.