Court Finds That Party Lacked Standing In A Probate Proceeding Where She Was Not An Informal Spouse

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In In re Estate of Pandozy, a woman attempted to intervene in a probate proceeding claiming that she was the informal spouse of the decedent. No. 05-19-00755-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 1265 (Tex. App.—Dallas February 22, 2021, no pet. history). The trial court heard evidence and ruled that she was not an informal spouse, and the woman appealed. The court of appeals first discussed the standards for proving an informal marriage:

As the proponent of the marriage, Gonzalez bore the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she and Pandozy were informally married. Specifically, Gonzalez was required to prove: (1) she and Pandozy agreed to be married; (2) after the agreement, they lived together in Texas as spouses; and (3) and there represented to others that they were married. The existence of a common law marriage is a question of fact to be resolved by the fact finder.

Id. The court of appeals then reviewed the evidence and held that although the decedent’s girlfriend presented some evidence relevant to the elements of an informal marriage, the evidence was contradicted and not sufficient to conclusively prove as a matter of law all vital facts in support of the existence of an informal marriage. Importantly, the court noted:

Although Gonzalez alleged that she and Pandozy discussed marriage in around 2009, she offered no evidence that the discussion ever culminated in an agreement to be married. At most, Gonzalez’s testimony describes an agreement to get married at some point in the future, not an agreement to be married. This distinction is significant. The agreement-to-be-married element requires proof of an intent to create an immediate and permanent marital relationship and that the couple did in fact agree to be husband and wife. There is no such evidence here.

Id. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order.

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