My brother passed away recently without a will, we as siblings are questioning on the status of the claimed surviving spouse who has been harassing our family and trying to get her hand on every single estate or property she can get money from.
However as I know that my brother has been filing tax return as "Head of Household" since 2007, the year after he had an informal wedding in his residence. We keep copies of his tax return records.
Does head of household in California Tax Law mean single filing separately, (he has two kids, he never claimed his claimed spouse as dependent in the tax return, only his two kids from previous marriage), divorced, or married filing separately. Does it imply any marital status condition ? We as siblings wish to know if she is legally married or registered with my brother. Appreciate your answer. Thank you for previous answers. They are very helpful.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Tax filing status tells you nothing for probate purposes. For one thing, filing status simply may be wrong. Unless there was an audit which resulted in a ruling on his marital status, the tax forms aren't evidence of anything other than what he thought was the most advantageous filing status he could take, regardless of whether he was right or not. The only two ways to find out if he was legally married or not are: a) go down to the county recorder's office in the county in which he resided and see if there is a finalized marriage license on file (although it is theoretically possible that he had a confidential marriage license which would not show up), or b) file probate and petition to be the executor, and then proceed with the probate as if he were single. That will place the burden on her to come forward and establish a marriage if there was one.
I agree with Mr. McCormick. Tax filing status as head of household does not mean marriage. You need to find out if there is a marriage certificate on file. If there is, you need to find out if the marriage is valid.