Massachusetts marriage laws do not recognize common-law marriage in such cases. So the pseudo-widow has to beg, bargain or sue if the blood relatives want the cash.
You can read her petition for summary judgment to get her share in Northrup v. Brigham, et al. The appeals court judge (Patrick F. Brady) decided that her case was not strong enough under the commonwealth statutes. He ordered it remanded to the probate court to continue its hearings on her quantum meruit claim.
Note: For the inexpert of us, the 'Lectric Law Lexicon's Library defines this as:
QUANTUM MERUIT - As much as he has deserved. When a person employs another to do work for him, without any agreement as to his compensation, the law implies a promise from, the employer to the workman that he will pay him for his services, as much as be may deserve or merit. In such case the plaintiff may suggest in his declaration that the defendant promised to pay him as much as he reasonably deserved, and then aver that his trouble was worth such a sum of money, which the defendant has omitted to pay. This is called an assumpsit on a quantum meruit.In other words, she says they had a deal, orally but plainly. Her case is strengthened by the facts of how much professional work she did to advance his career, as well as caring for him in failing health, and moving in with him after his repeated requests.
When there is an express contract for a stipulated amount and mode of compensation for services, the plaintiff cannot abandon the contract and resort to an action for a quantum meruit on an implied assumpsit.
Plain folk who just live together in what many states would consider common-law marriage are generally out of luck here in such cases.
Hesitating Bobby Lurtsema was not the only one who procrastinated until it was one breath too late. The ElderLaw folk think this case is important enough to keep updating it. They think she has a shot on her suit, as described here.