Unmarried Couples and Estate Planning. Does It Make Sense?
By Zachary Mushkatel on January 20, 2014
The reality in the United States today is that more and more couples are deciding to live together without getting married. The U.S. Census confirmed this fact when its data showed that the number of live-in couples in the United States rose by 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. The lack of a marriage license does not mean that a live-in couple does not have shared assets or have a real emotional or financial stake in making decisions for significant others should they become sick or incapacitated.
Does Estate Planning Make Sense For An Unmarried Couple?
Absolutely. Just know that estate planning issues for unmarried couples can be more complex than those same issues are for married couples.
For instance, if a married spouse dies, the surviving spouse typically will inherit the house they mutually owned. That is not necessarily true for a live-in couple, even if they lived in the same house for decades. If the house has not been properly titled or if the partner who owned the house failed to specify in his or her will that the house will pass to the surviving partner, that partner may be superseded by the biological family of the deceased partner.
If you are unmarried and living together, you need to be vigilant to make sure your assets will pass to your partner. Naming your partner as the beneficiary of all of your pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies is essential. And, once again, a properly drafted will or trust may ensure that your assets pass to your partner and not to a blood relative of higher statutory authority.
Arizona Does Not Recognize Common Law Marriages
Some states recognize common law marriages, but Arizona is not one of those states. Do not assume that if you have lived together for a substantial length of time that your assets will be protected. If you are a gay or lesbian couple legally married in another state, know that Arizona will not recognize your marriage because same-sex marriages are still not legal in Arizona.
If you are an unmarried couple and have questions about how to protect your assets, contact the estate planning attorneys at the law firm of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, in Phoenix. Call us at (623) 889-0691 or contact us online today to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.