Saturday, July 24, 2010

Who you are today apparently doesn't matter to High Courts

Nikki Araguz, a transgender widow in Wharton, Texas has been landblasted by her husband's family, the media and the residents of Texas because the family is alleging that her husband didn't know she was a male at birth and that the couple were separated at the time of his death.  Now they hoping to declare the marriage invalid so that the firefighter's children will be the ones that inherit his benefits and property.  Why does this matter?

Well in Texas, a male cannot marry another male due to the 2005 Amendment to the Texas Constitution banning said marriages and the Texas Family Code.  It becomes murky when a male begins identifying himself as a female, has a name change, as well as gender reassignment surgery.  The 1999 case that the media are referring to is right on point with the situation that is presented because it holds that no matter how you identify yourself today, the law ALWAYS looks back to the gender identified on your original birth certificate.  So if you are woman today but you were born a man, then you can only marry a woman today.  If instead you marry a man in Texas, then you have entered into an illegal same-sex marriage.  Huh?

If the marriage is invalid, his estate will automatically pass to his next of kin which are his children. 
If the marriage is valid, the widow will share the estate with her step-children.  Reportedly there's approximately 500k at stake in benefits at stake.  However, if the fightfighter designated his wife as a beneficiary of any of his accounts, benefits, etc. then it will pass directly to her with one exception - pensions.  Pensions can only pass on to spouses.  Here we need more facts about whether the widow is trying to probate her husband's estate, whether they were indeed married in Texas, whether they were married before or after her reassignment surgery, and whether they were separated at the time of his death will all have bearing on who administers the estate, who inherits, and whether the widow will have any rights at all.  Stay tuned!