Lack of a marriage license makes it difficult—but not impossible—to recover damages for wrongful death

Can Unmarried Partners File Wrongful Death Claims?

The purpose of wrongful death claims is to provide compensation to spouses, registered domestic partners, children, and other close family members who have suffered financial harm after losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. This compensation can include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses incurred during a final illness or injury
  • Income the deceased person would have earned had they lived
  • Household services the deceased person would have performed
  • Love, attention, affection, guidance, and companionship they would have provided

These days, many couples share a home and commingle their finances for years or decades at a time, without ever taking the step of actually getting married. When one of these unmarried partners passes on, the surviving partner will suffer all of the same losses and damages as a spouse. However, without that marriage license on file with the authorities, unmarried partners do not have the same rights in a wrongful death case.

In California, wrongful death cases can be only be brought by legally recognized family members. This primarily means spouses, registered domestic partners, and children. However, other relatives who can show they were financially dependent on the deceased person may also file claims. This may include stepchildren and parents, as well as “putative spouses.” A putative spouse is someone who believed in good faith that they were married, even though there may have been some legal reason that the marriage was actually void or voidable.

There is Another Option for Unmarried Partners

Wrongful death claims may also be brought by the deceased person’s estate. When this happens, the estate will receive the cash from any settlement or jury award, and then disburse it to the individuals named in the will or to the family members who would be entitled to the deceased’s property by intestate succession (such as parents or siblings).

So, if an unmarried partner is named in the will, they will be able to recover compensation for the loss of their loved one, assuming they can convince the executor of the estate to file a wrongful death action within two years of the death.

Do You Need Help with a Wrongful Death Case?

If you have lost your partner due to another party’s negligence, The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker is here to help. We understand the needs of grieving families and we promise to be respectful of your feelings and aggressive in our pursuit of the compensation you need to recover financially. To learn more about hiring us as your wrongful death attorney, please call us at 800-333-0000 and request a free consultation.