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Women fail to undo their sister's deathbed "I do"

Family law issues come in all shapes and sizes, and they often dovetail with other areas of the law. An interesting case came up in another state that showed how estate planning and family law can come together. The case involves three sisters and a secret marriage.

We have changed the names out of respect for the family. The three sisters are now Janet, Amy and Mary.

One night toward the end of October 2009, Janet lay in hospice, dying of cancer. She had been fighting cancer for more than a year. She had entered the hospital a few days earlier; her health had deteriorated to such a degree that her care team moved her to hospice the day before these events.

Her sister Amy was visiting that night. Amy later said that Janet was heavily sedated and hallucinating, "in and out of it." Amy eventually went home.

The defendant in the case -- we will call him Tim -- arrived shortly after Amy left. Late at night, a minister married the two. Janet's nurse and another man witnessed the ceremony. No one said anything to Janet's sisters or mother.

Janet died about a week later. It was then that Amy and Mary discovered that Tim and Janet had gotten married.

The court record does not include why Amy and Mary objected to the marriage, but they did. They petitioned the court for an annulment. (In Illinois, the term is invalidity of a marriage.) They claimed that Janet lacked capacity to consent, that she was mentally unstable and that the marriage was fraudulent.

We'll get into more of the annulment in our next post.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "In-Laws Can't Annul Deathbed Wedding," Jeff D. Gorman, April 27, 2012

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