Domestic partnership and civil unions are sometimes utilized by adults who are not interested in the legal obligations and taxes associated with marriage. Though it is possible to have a domestic partnership legally recognized, there are some adults who prefer to enjoy a long-term relationship without formalizing their arrangements. Unfortunately, if one partner passes away without a will, the surviving partner could find themselves in a difficult legal position. Without any legal right to property owned by a partner that is inherited by adult children or other relatives, some surviving partners have found themselves faced with eviction. Utilizing estate planning tips for unmarried couples can help you and your partner protect each other from financial hardships.

Review Finances Together

Lack of communication plays a large role in estate problems that occur after one partner has passed away leaving the survivor without a clear understanding of his or her financial status.  Reviewing finances jointly will allow both parties to make decisions based on full and accurate knowledge. Knowing what income will no longer be available, what debts need to be paid off, and if additional life insurance is necessary to make up for any estate shortfalls can help you plan as a couple for a future in which one of you must maintain a household alone. Reviewing finances together increases your chances of distributing assets in a way that will help your partner the most.

Check Beneficiary Designations

Never take beneficiary designations for granted when you are not legally married, even if you have a will. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies are often awarded to the designated person on record rather than a person who is named in your will. Periodically check to make sure your partner is specifically named as the person who will receive your assets. Not checking can create a situation in which a former partner, sibling, child or parent inherits assets you intended to go to your partner. This could present serious problems if the person who receives the assets is not on good terms with your partner or if the funds were needed to protect or preserve other assets such as a home or land.

Plan for Serious Health Issues

One thing that many couples do not take into consideration is serious health issues that could impact a partner’s ability to make decisions or manage his or her own affairs. If you have not taken precautions, such as creating a living will, that place your partner in control of medical decisions and finances, he or she could end up in a legal battle with your family. Without acceptable legal documents available, courts often side with blood relatives instead of the partner. In some situations, the court will go so far as appointing a guardian, leaving your partner shut out of all decisions and, in some cases, unable to even visit you.

Take Control

If you and your partner want to protect your rights as an unmarried couple, consider consulting an estate lawyer. Taking control by preparing for any eventuality that would require your partner to make the end of life decisions or manage your finances after you pass away ensures that your final wishes are honored. MMZ Law understands the difficulties that unmarried couples often face and we are dedicated to helping you with all of your estate planning needs. Contact us to schedule a consultation at our conveniently located Claremont, California office today.

*We service Elder Law through Medi-Cal Asset Protection Planning



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.