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In re Estate of Hunsaker

Supreme Court of Montana
968 P.2d 281 (Mont. 1998)


Facts

Anne Barnett (plaintiff) met Maurice Hunsaker in 1985. Anne was married to another man at the time, but separated from her then-husband in December 1986. After the separation, on Christmas Day 1986, Maurice gave Anne an engagement ring and a matching wedding ring and asked her to marry him. Anne wore the engagement ring but did not wear the wedding ring, as she had not had a formal wedding ceremony. Anne divorced her husband in February 1987. Anne and Maurice moved in together in October 1987. Anne and Maurice had a sign in front of their house that stated “Hunsakers.” Anne recorded a message on their answering machine stating, “This is the Hunsaker residence.” Anne and Maurice bought a grandfather clock and had the pendulum engraved with an “H” for Hunsaker, surrounded by an “M” and an “A.” Anne and Maurice had separate bank accounts and filed their taxes as single individuals. Maurice passed away in September 1996. Anne filed a petition in the District Court for the First Judicial District of Broadwater County to be named as the personal representative of Hunsaker’s estate. Anne testified that she felt married to Maurice and believed that Maurice felt married to her. There was conflicting witness testimony about whether Maurice and Anne were husband and wife. The district court found that Anne had not proven she was the common-law wife of Maurice. Anne appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Nelson, J.)

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Dissent (Gray, J.)

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