While (at least for now) it is possible for same-sex as well as different-sex couples to legally marry, many couples choose to remain unmarried. If you are in a committed relationship without the automatic legal protections of marriage, you should think about using estate planning to protect your family. Legal marriage does not eliminate the need for estate planning, but the law makes assumptions about married couples and provides certain default protections that are not available to unmarried couples.
If your spouse dies, the law assumes that your spouse intended to benefit you with at least part of your estate (depending on whether your spouse has children). If you are not married, there is no automatic right to any property that is not already in your name. If you are not married, the only way to ensure that your partner receives any property is to make provisions in a will or trust that direct assets to your partner.
Similarly, if you become incapacitated, the law assumes that your spouse will care for you and make decisions regarding the care you receive (and how to pay for it). But if you are not legally married, only a court decision will give your partner legal authority to act on your behalf. You can avoid the need to go to court by drawing up a complete estate plan, including a financial power of attorney and a health care directive.
So, to make sure that your wishes regarding your property, your family, and your medical care are followed, please contact the Law Office of Alice K. Dueker to set up an appointment. We will discuss what you want and how you can protect your family with an estate plan, and support you through the steps to make your goals a reality.
Law Office of Alice K. Dueker
1604 Solano Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707