Shane and Molly lived together in Lansing, Michigan for 12 years. During that time, Shane and Molly had a joint bank account and put both their names on their car and the lease of their apartment. During this time, they referred to each other as “my wife” and “my husband” although they never formally married.
At the end of this period, Molly and Shane moved to Syracuse, New York. Unfortunately, three weeks later, Molly was hit by a truck and killed. Neither party had a Will.
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Shane petitions the Surrogate’s court to be treated as Molly’s husband for purposes of dividing her estate and to be named Administrator of her estate. Molly’s family counters that they should receive all of Molly’s property (that was not jointly owned with Shane) since Molly and Shane were not married. Shane argues that they were “common law” spouses because of the way they lived together in Lansing.
Assume that Michigan does recognize common law marriages, while New York does not. Assume further that Shane and Molly’s common law marriage was valid under Michigan law.
The question is:
Must the New York Surrogate’s court recognize Shane and Molly’s common law marriage in Michigan, even though New York does not recognize common law marriage? Please make sure to back up your points with appropriate legal citations.