Estate Planning For Couples Who Are Not Legally Married

If you are not legally married but share children with your partner, this blog is specifically for you. Nowadays, a lot of couples are choosing to not marry. These same couples could share assets, children and a beautiful life together, minus the legal marriage certificate.

What problems does this pose legally for the partners when one of them passes away?

If you are not married to your partner and you share assets or children or if you are divorced legally from your partner but you still share assets or children, then you have to consult with our office. You must put together a comprehensive estate plan . Because the law gives you no rights when your significant other passes away.

Example With No Planning

John and Sally are divorced from one another. They live in a home with their children and have agreed to share everything and raise the children. The home is titled in John’s name alone. John dies and the property is distributed to the children through the long and expensive process called probate. Even though Sally may be appointed as the person in charge of the children’s estate she has no legal rights to the assets. The house is not hers and it can never be. It belongs to the children. She has no legal rights because she has no legal relationship with John. If the children are minors, then the home will be under court supervision, so Sally will have to involve the court when she wants to mortgage or sell the property.

Example With Planning

If John intended to include Sally he could have easily created a trust and named Sally to be a beneficiary before the children. In any case, even if he wanted the kids to be beneficiaries, he should have still created a trust with Sally as the Trustee. This would have avoided the probate process and saved the children thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees.

The same situation applies to couples who do not want to get married and end up raising a family and acquiring assets which is very common nowadays. In order to have legal rights, they must create an estate plan.

Example With No Planning

John and Sally are not married but live together and raise children. John is a bad car accident and in ICU. Sally is not his wife, so she has no rights to make medical decisions. She has the same legal status as their neighbor or friend—no say in John’s healthcare decisions.

Example With Planning

John and Sally are not married but live together and raise children. John is a bad car accident and in ICU. Sally is not his wife, but John had an estate plan that placed Sally in charge of all healthcare decisions for John. Sally will present this document to the hospital and begin her job as power of attorney over John’s wellbeing.

Couples who are not legally married are extremely vulnerable in the probate and conservatorship system. That legal status of married in California brings with it a lot of legal rights. If you chose NOT to have that marriage license, then you should be proactive about securing each other’s future legal rights. Make plans to give them those same rights they would’ve had as your husband and wife. Call our office (818) 649-9110.

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