A: Pennsylvania law says: "No common-law marriage contracted after January 1, 2005, shall be valid." If the couple were together since before 2005, there MAY be a common law marriage. However, validity of a common law marriage requires more than just living together for a certain period of years. There must be a mutual, openly expressed agreement by the two individuals that they wish to be and are married. They must publicly hold themselves out as being married. When one of the individuals is deceased, evaluation of whether or not a common law marriage existed must look to various facts and circumstances of how they conducted themselves. Such factors can include, but are not necessarily limited to: Did they file taxes jointly as a married couple? Were they covered under the same health insurance plan as a married couple? Did they introduce themselves to others as being married? Did they financially run their household as a single unit - such as having joint bank accounts, shopping for food and supplies as a single household unit etc.?
The existence or non-existence of any one factor does not by itself determine whether or not there is a common law marriage but rather the totality of circumstances must be examined.
Such cases are very fact specific and judges long disliked having to make such determinations. The uncertainty surrounding common law marriage was an important factor in the decision to abolish them effective after January 1, 2005.
A: To fully answer your question would require additional information because whether or not you can keep the house will depend upon a number of factors. Are there other assets which can be used to pay off the mortgage? Are there other debts beside the mortgage which must be paid? Are there other beneficiaries or heirs who are entitled to a share of your mother's estate? If the house is not being sold, how will the Pennsylvania inheritance tax be paid? Assuming that the other financial factors of the estate may make it possible for the house to be transferred to you and the mortgage will not be paid off in a lump sum, you would need to refinance the mortgage so that you will be the borrower making payments on it - will you be able to afford to pay a mortgage as well as the property taxes, property insurance, maintenance, and other expenses associated with the home?
It would be a good idea for you to review this matter in depth with an experienced estate and trust attorney.
A: As a practical matter, if the credit card issuers are notified by letter that your father is deceased, there are no assets available to pay their bills and the family is not raising an estate administration, the likely result will be they will write off the balance. To the extent there is any money left in a bank account, if a receipt showing the funeral has been already paid for, the bank can release funds less than $10,000.00 to the spouse, child, parent, or sibling (in that order of preference) of the deceased person without the need to open a probate estate. As to the use of any such money, payment for a funeral is a higher priority than payment of a credit card debt so any such money can be used toward reimbursing the family members who paid for the funeral before it would have to be paid to a credit card issuer.