Couples Who Cohabitate Need an Estate Plan
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more people than ever before are living together prior to tying the knot, with almost half of all women between age 15 and 44 choosing to cohabitate before walking down the aisle.
Although today’s society is largely more accepting of cohabitation than previous generations, the law still lags behind the times. Few states recognize “common law” marriage, and fewer still allow a surviving cohabitating partner to inherit property when the other person dies.
Because Minnesota does not recognize common law marriage, it is crucial for cohabitating couples to draft an estate plan that protects the legal rights and property of both parties.
What an Estate Plan Can Do for Cohabitating Couples
Contrary to what some believe, estate plans are not reserved for the very old or the very rich. In reality, estate plans are very everyone – and they are especially important for certain types of people, such as those who choose to live with a long-term partner without getting married. If you cohabitate, here is what an estate plan can do for you and your loved one:
Protect You if You Become Incapacitated
Many people mistakenly believe that they don’t need an estate plan because they don’t own any property – or perhaps they own very little. If you are unmarried but nonetheless in a dedicated relationship, your significant other may have no rights in the event you become incapacitated.
For example, if you are injured in a catastrophic accident or become terminally ill, health care laws prevent your partner from making health care decisions on your behalf. In fact, strict health care privacy laws, such as HIPAA, even prohibit your health care providers from discussing your condition with non-family members, including a non-spouse. With careful estate planning, however, you can designate your partner as your health care agent and instruct providers to release information to your agent.
Under Minnesota inheritance laws, a cohabitating partner can’t inherit property from a deceased live-in partner. This is a shock to couples who have lived together for many years. In some cases, they have built a life that includes real estate, vehicles, and other assets. Depending on how these assets are titled, however, a surviving partner can be completely disinherited upon the other’s death. In the most devastating cases, the decedent’s assets go directly to family members, leaving a surviving partner with nothing.
Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate Law Firm
To discuss your case, call the Minnesota probate and estate planning attorneys at Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC today our office.
This website has been prepared by Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.