It is being increasingly common for couples to live together and even have children together, but to not get legally married. According to U.S. Census data, the number of couples cohabitating without being married has increased 27% from 2007, with about half of those couples over the age of 50.
When it comes to estate planning, the law has not yet caught up with this growing trend. The law expects people that are living together and that own assets together to be married. And if you’re not married? Without planning, your estate would not go to your partner, but would instead go to your closest living relative! In California, there is no such thing as common law marriage. In some circumstances, an unmarried partner can receive a portion of the estate as if they were married, but only after pursing expensive and lengthy litigation against their deceased partner’s family, and even then it does not work in many instances. There are also complicated income and property tax issues that need to be considered for unmarried couples that own assets jointly.
If you have adult children, you may wish to make sure that your partner is provided for during their lifetime, but ultimately want your estate to go to your children. Without proper planning, your children’s inheritance may go to your partner and then when they die, to their family instead of your own children. If you have young children, additional care needs to be taken to properly plan for the financial management of their inheritance.
We can help you navigate the unique legal challenges of being an unmarried couple. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your specific circumstances and have your questions answered.