Misery Love Company

MiseryThomas Ellis, sentenced to a  45-year prison, filed a lawsuit to try to stop the woman who bears his father’s last name from claiming his late father’s Social Security benefits.

Thomas Ellis claims that Maria Jackson, also known as Maria Ellis, has no right to his father’s benefits because she was never legally married to him.

Maria Ellis was listed in Cleveland “Doc” Ellis’ obituary in 2015 as his wife of 60 years. A family member also said the couple was legally married in the 1990s, and that Thomas Ellis was probably in jail and didn’t know the couple got married.

Ellis filed the handwritten lawsuit himself.  He claims that his father’s first and only wife was Carrie Ellis, who died in 1985. His father separated in 1954 from Carrie Ellis, but they never divorced.

Doc Ellis and Maria Ellis lived together from 1955 until his death in 2015 at the age of 88. The big question is whether the couple’s relationship was under the purview of the abolished common-law marriage law in Mississippi or whether they were they legally married.

Mississippi abolished its common- law marriage statute in 1956 and it hasn't been recognized in the state for some time. An unmarried person living with another now isn’t entitled to the other person’s benefits, property or any assets.

Common-law marriage is thought to result when two people live together without going through the official process of obtaining a marriage license.  They are married by a minister or another person authorized to conduct a marriage.

One retired Chancery Judge contends that if a common law marriage was established before common-law marriage was abolished as a legal marriage contract, it would be recognized as legal at any point thereafter.

However, the judge said the issue is whether a common-law marriage was established in the case before it was no longer legal.

A federal judge dismissed Ellis' lawsuit last month.  However, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, so it can be refiled.

Reference: The (Jackson MS) Clarion-Ledger (September 27, 2017) “Is common-law marriage legal in Mississippi?”

Suggested Key Terms:

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.