In the state of California, your spouse is entitled to a certain share of your assets when you die unless you state otherwise in your will. However, unmarried people aren’t entitled to those same protections. If you don’t plan on getting married soon, including your partner in your estate plan is crucial if you want to take care of him or her in the event of your death!
How can unmarried couples plan their estate?
Many young, unmarried people assume that they don’t need to start thinking about estate planning until they’ve reached retirement age. In fact, estate planning is particularly important for unmarried couples. If you’re not married when you die and don’t have a will, your assets will go to your family members. Your partner won’t be entitled to anything because you’re not related or legally bound by marriage. This is because Califonia, like other states that have common-law marriages, does not have any implied rights for cohabiting partners.
As a result, it’s important to include your partner in your will. Make sure you specifically name them as the beneficiary of certain properties and assets. An estate planning attorney may make other recommendations, like naming your partner as your life insurance beneficiary.
You might also want to name your partner as your health care proxy or give them power of attorney. If you don’t, they won’t be able to make legal, medical, or financial decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. You might also want to document funeral arrangements in your will since your partner won’t be able to do much on your behalf if you’re not married at the time of your death. Again, Califonia does not acknowledge or recognize any rights of non-married couples (unless you name them in formal estate planning documents!)
You can always revise your estate plan if you and your partner break up. In the meantime, you can rest assured that your partner will have legal rights and receive part of your estate if the unthinkable happens.
Should you hire an attorney?
Estate planning is challenging enough for married couples. If you and your partner aren’t married, you’ll have to deal with a completely different set of challenges. An attorney may help you write a comprehensive estate plan that gives your partner legal rights in the event of your death, including nominating a guardian if you have underage children.