That’s because he didn't name her in his will, says the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals. That ruling affirmed the decision of the trial court—it didn't buy Carol Galinac's argument that she and Ralph Tito were common-law husband and wife when he died in September 2013. The decision which leaves Galinac empty-handed came in an opinion Judge Anne E. Lazarus issued last week. The decision of the Court of Appeals upholds the ruling by a Westmoreland County judge who honored a request by Tito's four children to dismiss a claim Galinac filed against their father's estate.
Judge Lazarus’ ruling found that Tito and Galinac had been in a romantic relationship for 13 years when Tito died, but that only Tito's kids were named as beneficiaries in his will. The will provided nothing for Galinac, the judge noted. Galinac claimed that Tito's children were keeping her from even retrieving her property from Tito's home. In reply, Ralph Tito's kids demanded that she give back thousands of dollars they claimed she withdrew from his checking account. The children also argued that a cohabitation agreement Galinac signed, barred her from making claims against the estate.
On appeal, Galinac argued that the trial judge Lazarus erred in deciding she had waited too long to contest Tito's will. Judge Lazarus should have allowed her the opportunity to prove she and Tito were common-law spouses, Galinac argued. She also insisted that Tito's children misled her by telling her she was "merely (Tito's) girlfriend" and, as a result, had no legitimate claim to his estate.
Judge Lazarus found Galinac's arguments to be "illogical, irreconcilable and legally untenable," which sunk her chances of success in court. The judge noted that she claimed she had a common-law marriage on one hand, and yet on the other hand said she didn't know if she and Tito were legally wed. Like Virginia, Pennsylvania doesn't recognize common-law marriages. In any event, Judge Lazarus explained that both parties were required to acknowledge the common-law bond existed. If there wasn’t mutual agreement, there wasn’t a legally binding union that would entitle Galinac to a share of Tito's estate.
Reference: Penn Live (November 17, 2016) “Woman who isn't named in lover's will can't get a penny from his estate, Pa. court says”