More and more people are choosing to have a committed relationship without getting married. While this is a personal choice that must be respected, it is also one that requires at least a look at the legal ramifications of being unmarried.
California does not recognize common law marriages. In other words, just because you and your partner have been living together for over a decade like a married couple, this does not give you a legal status of married.
As the trend seems to be going towards unwedded commitments, couples should realize that they are not afforded the same rights and benefits as married couples. This applies to estate planning. There are many benefits specific to married couples when it comes to estate taxes, surviving spouse benefits and property rights. What this means is if you or your partner were to pass away, the other has no survivor's rights. Nothing in the deceased partner's estate would automatically pass on to the surviving partner.
What Unwed Couples Can Do
However, there are legal tools that can be created for unmarried couples to avoid this type of mess. Some of these estate planning tools include a will, revocable living trust, power of attorney, advanced health care directives and more. These various legal documents can give your partner the authority in some cases to make decisions on your behalf or be the beneficiary of your estate.
The key here is that unmarried couples should be proactive in utilizing estate planning tools. There is no benefit of estate planning really if it is done after the fact. Discuss your estate planning goals with a seasoned lawyer in California today.