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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Judge grants marriage wish on man's deathbed

In Minnesota issues of probate and estate administration are decided every day. Some turn on the status of a particular individual and their relationship to the deceased. In cases where a last will and testament exists, the terms of the will may dictate who gets what. When there is no will, however, state statutes provide for distribution to beneficiaries. Whether or not these issues played a direct part, an interesting and heart-rending case was reported in Minnesota.

A hospice worked called a Hennepin County district judge about 3:30 p.m. to ask him if he would preside at the wedding of a 77-year-old man who was being sent home from the hospital, as he was expected to die soon. The judge had just concluded a trial and was exhausted, but the hospice worker pleaded, and the judge listened.

After confirming that the proposed wedding was not being held for the purpose of financial self-dealing, the judge relented. He learned that the couple had been together for 38 years. They had always planned to marry and had even once applied for a license. But now they were out of time and wanted to legally affirm their lasting love for each other. But the man was expected to die at any moment, and there was not enough time for the judge to travel to their home.

Instead, the judge agreed to perform the service by telephone. After asking a few questions to confirm that the family supported the wedding, the judge pronounced the couple husband and wife upon their promise to love and care for each other in sickness and in health, for as long as they both shall live. They kissed for the first time as a married couple, and the man died later that night.

Whether or not the marriage made the wife a legal beneficiary is not known, but Florida residents should be aware that, despite this couple's happiness in an otherwise sad moment, not every late-in-life decision goes so smoothly. For example, in many cases that involve wills and trusts, expert opinion can prove essential in making sure the wishes of estate owners are adequately fulfilled. The judge in this story may have made the right decision, but he also had the right questions in mind to ensure that justice was served.

Source: startribune.com, "In the rush of justice a judge pauses to grant a dying wish," Oct. 28, 2011

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