What wil happen regarding a "second" wife's rights in a case of bigamy?
Question Details: My father-in-law sadly passed away recently. He was in hospice and a social worker helped by giving us info on things after his passing. She said that his possessions house, cars, properties would become my mother-in-law's since he had no Will. My mother-in-law's name and father-in-law's name are on the mortgage. Now the tricky part. We live in New Mexico. He was a legal resident of the U.S.; he immigrated from Mexico quite some time ago. He married my mother-in-law 24 years ago and she is a U.S. citizen. Now we are hearing that he was also married in Mexico before immigrating here. My mother-in-law did not know that he was married; she just knew that he had children there. The wife in Mexico knows of his passing and my father-in-law's kids from Mexico have informed us that they are going to come to fight for their inheritance. My mother-in-law is very scared that they are going to take her house, cars, and a rental property. He did not have a large sum of money that the kids in Mexico think he had. In fact he had some recent debt that we are going to be expected to pay. Do they have to worry about the wife from Mexico fighting for their house and rental properties? What actions can we take to help protect my mother-in-law?
As you appear to know, the second "wife" is not actually a wife, since you cannot legally marry person 2 while still married to person 1. If the Mexican wife can prove that he and she were married and never divorced, she, not your mother-in-law, was the spouse and had the spouse's rights--which means that she, not your mother-in-law, will inherit under the rules for intestate succession. Your mother-in-law needs to consult with an attorney (e.g. a family law attorney) to understand what rights she may have in this specific situation (since the specific facts can affect the outcome), but she needs to be prepared for the possibilty that she has no rights.