Since the 1980s billionaire mogul Oprah Winfrey has played a large role in shaping the media industry. Throughout the years she has helped launch multiple careers, created her own network, and supported multiple charities.  Oprah has always openly discussed her personal life including weight challenges and her long-term relationship with Stedman Graham. Even though the two became formerly engaged in 1992 they have never married causing speculation regarding how her multi-billion-dollar estate would be divided should Oprah pass away without any immediate heir. Questions about estate planning for unmarried couples are being asked more frequently as a larger number of young couples establish relationships that do not necessarily lead to marriage.

Anticipate Transitions

An estate plan is more than just a will; it is a legal document that provides those closest to you with the information they need to see that your final wishes are respected. Depending on how much property you are leaving behind and the number of beneficiaries you have, it could take your executor several months to complete the probate process. During the transition period between your passing and the distribution of your estate make sure their funds available to maintain your property and support your partner.

Do Not Procrastinate

A couple in love may believe they have all the time in the world, but tragedy can strike at any time, leaving your loved ones unprotected when they most need security. Adults who are not married, but live with a partner, are in a unique situation that is not always protected. When a person passes away without naming a partner in his or her will or as a beneficiary to any accounts, probate quickly becomes complicated. In some cases, the named heirs or closest relatives will protect the financial interests of your loved ones, but that is not always guaranteed.  Taking charge of your estate planning immediately is the best way to keep those you love most safe.

Do Not Rely on Common Law Marriage

One of the biggest mistakes unmarried couples make is believing that their long-term cohabitation guarantees legal protection. The idea that a common-law marriage provides the same rights that are granted to a legal spouse leads to some assuming they will automatically receive their partner’s assets if their partner passes away. In reality, very few states recognize common law marriage and not every state has the same legal requirements for determining what is considered a common-law marriage. Even though California does not recognize common-law marriages, some couples are shocked to discover the estate of their partner is under no obligation to recognize the relationship as a legal marriage.

Contact an Attorney

Protecting those you love is possible with careful planning and the legal advice of an expert. The team at MMZ Law will work with you, providing an estate planning attorney who is able to determine the best way to protect your family and your partner. Conveniently located in Claremont, California, we are available to discuss your unique need privately. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.




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.