Many couples–married or unmarried–want to have inheritance rights. This means they need to execute testamentary documents, such as wills, in order to ensure a solid estate plan.
In states that do not recognize common law marriage, the state will not recognize a couple as being married. However, even if you learn your state does not recognize a common law marriage, you still want to have an estate plan. A will is the starting point of an estate plan, and for an unmarried couple, having it professionally prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney is very important.
An agreement between two people as to how they want their assets distributed after death sounds simple, but there are many laws. Each state has its own laws, and if the document is not prepared correctly, it could very easily be invalid. That would make the couple’s agreement useless. There are also things that need to be prepared, so an unmarried couple can take care of each other while they’re living, which they cannot legally do without being married.
A cohabiting couple has no right to direct medical care for each other, including speaking with a healthcare provider or even seeing their partner as a visitor in a healthcare facility. If a decision needs to be made by one partner because the other partner is incapacitated, their partner will not have the legal right to make any medical decisions or even speak with a healthcare provider. If the couple owns vehicles separately, the vehicles will have their own titles i.e. the legal document establishing ownership. If they want to add their other partner’s name to the vehicle the title needs to be re-issued by the state to reflect that change.
If the couple owns a home together, they need to confirm how the home is titled. If they are joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants in common, that might be appropriate for their circumstances. However, if one person bought the home before they lived together or was solely responsible for paying the mortgage and for upkeep, they will need to make sure the title and their will establishes ownership and what the owner wants to happen when they die. If the wish is for the surviving partner to remain in the home, that needs to be properly legally documented. An estate planning attorney will help the couple create a plan that addresses large assets and reflect the couples wishes for the future. Unmarried cohabitating adults need to protect each other while they are living and after they pass. A local estate planning attorney will be able to help accomplish this.
Contact our experienced estate planning lawyers today for more information.