Common Law Marriage

Posted by: Apr 16, 2019By Brian Stutheit

Yudkin died intestate (without a will). Yudkin’s ex-wife Shtutman sought appointment as the personal representative (executor) of his estate. Dareuskaya objected to Shtutman’s appointment, claiming that she was Yudkin’s common law wife and thus had priority as the personal representative. Yudkin and Dareuskaya did not file joint tax returns, kept separate bank accounts, and only Yudkin owned the house where they lived. But Yudkin introduced Dareuskaya’s children as his own. A dozen witnesses testified that Yudkin and Dareuskaya told them they were married. They lived together for eight years, and had a reputation in their community as a married couple.

Under People v. Lucero, 747 P.2d 660 (Colo. 1987), if there is an agreement to be married and the parties cohabitate and have a reputation in the community as husband and wife, a common law marriage has been established. Further, any actions taken (or not taken) by the parties after those essential factors are established are legally irrelevant. So, the filing of separate tax returns and keeping of separate bank accounts did not matter. Yudkin and Dareuskaya were found to be husband and wife in a 2019 decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals.