When you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with someone, but you haven’t yet gotten around—or do not plan on ever getting around—to getting legally married, an unexpected death or incapacitation can be devastating, both emotionally and legally, as the laws for survivorship and ownership are complicated by the lack of legal clarification available for lifelong partners who have chosen to remain unmarried.
Accord to federal and state laws, when a spouse dies, the home the couple shares typically passes to the surviving spouse. But if the couple is not legally married, when a partner dies, their home may pass to the nearest relative of the deceased—a child, parent, brother, sister, or other relation—no matter how long the surviving partner has been living there. An unmarried couple runs the risk of losing possessions and property in a similar manner. The laws of survivorship do not provide well for those who have made lifelong commitments, but have chosen to forgo the traditional marital union that goes along with that commitment.
The issue of survivorship is especially problematic for same-sex couples who have only recently been granted the right to marry legally in California. If these couples have not gotten married yet, and tragedy strikes, the surviving partner may be left with nothing, even if they have been with their deceased partner for several years.
To prevent this from happening, our San Francisco wills attorneys at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., recommend getting started early—even if it is a difficult or painful subject to discuss, it is important to plan for the unknown, especially in tenuous legal situations such as an unmarried partnership. Our attorneys will meet with you, and discuss your best options to provide for your partner in the event of your death.
One common method of avoiding the laws of survivorship is to title assets and property in both partner’s names. This is particularly helpful in the case of a shared home. If the home is in both parties’ names, it will automatically pass to the other owner should one party pass away. This prevents complications with family members and relatives who may try to claim property as their own, taking advantage of the fact that their deceased relative was not married. Joint titling gives both partners equal access and rights over possessions during their lives, and in death, maintains the relationship and commitment the couple has shared.
How Our Wills Attorneys Can Help
At the Evans Law Firm, Inc., our San Francisco wills attorneys work with couples who are unmarried, but committed to each other, and who want to establish specific plans that will guarantee that their loved ones are cared and provided for after their death. Meeting with a San Francisco wills attorney to discuss your relationship with your partner, and your hopes for your estate after your death, will help you to ensure that your wishes are carried out, even if the laws typically dictate a different standard. Your will can be tailored to fit your needs and your lifestyle, and our attorneys at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., are here to help.