In the 21st century, society has generally come to accept the fact that people often choose to live together before getting married or chose not to get legally married at all. As is often the case with the law, however, it has yet to catch up with the shift in what is socially acceptable. For this reason, if you have chosen to cohabitate, you need to be sure that you have a comprehensive estate plan in place to protect yourself and your partner.
Although state laws vary somewhat, state intestacy laws (laws that apply when someone dies without having executed a Last Will and Testament prior to death) will give some, or all, of a decedent’s assets to a legally married spouse. As a general rule though, an unmarried partner/companion / fiancée receives nothing if you die. If you want to provide for your partner, you absolutely must create an estate plan that does so.
Creating an estate plan doesn’t just protect your partner; it also protects you in the event of incapacity. Again, your partner will have no automatic authority to make health care decisions for you, manage your finances, or even decide where you will live if you become incapacitated. If you want your partner to have these rights you must give them to him or her within your estate plan.
A carefully crafted estate plan can do what the law does not; however, you must take the time to create a plan that will effectively spring into action.