In the 21st century, it is far from uncommon for couples to delay, or even forego, marriage and simply co-habitat together. The reasons for this are varied. Some people who have been through a traumatic divorce are leery of the concept of marriage. Others simply see no reason to formalize a union that seems to work fine without legally marrying. Regardless of the reason, an unmarried couple needs to pay particular attention to their estate plan to ensure that the couple’s wishes are honored in the event that one of the two should die or become incapacitated.
Although society largely accepts the idea that a legal marriage may not be necessary, the law still draws a very sharp line between those who have legalized a union and those who have not. That line becomes especially clear when one of the two dies. The bottom line is that in most states, an unmarried partner has no rights to the estate of a decedent. This means that if even if you have lived with your partner for decades, raised children together, and appear to be the same as any other married couple for all the world, your partner will get nothing from your estate if you die unless you carefully craft an estate plan that provides for him or her.
The rules of intestacy decide what happens to your assets if you die without executing a Last Will and Testament. Intestacy rules will split your assets among children and other blood relatives if you die without a Will. Therefore, the only way your partner will receive what you intend for him or her to have is if you specifically gift assets in your Will to your partner.
If you are concerned about estate planning for unmarried couples, consult with your estate planning attorney today to ensure that your wishes will be honored.
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