However, the wife filed an appeal, and the appellate court judge ruled that the absence of a marriage license does not invalidate a marriage, thus allowing the wife to claim a spousal share. Since the court validated the marriage, the wife is likely also entitled to:
- Spousal rollover of the deceased husband’s IRAs (if she was designated a beneficiary or, potentially, if the account was paid to the estate, of which she were the sole beneficiary)
- Elect portability of the unused portion of the deceased husband’s estate tax exemption
Although the decision to validate a marriage without a license may not be recognized in all states, it is an important case for North Carolina residents and could affect North Carolina estate disputes and spousal shares for other couples.
The couple noted in the case above had previously been married to each other and had divorced before their second marriage, the latter marriage being the one that did not involve a marriage license. It is not yet known whether a similar ruling would be issued from similar facts in a first-marriage situation. Explore how remarriages affect inheritances.