Family Law and Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples in Washington State
Sometimes, “shacking up” seems a lot simpler than “getting hitched”. Unfortunately, the law can make love complicated. Many couples who are deeply committed to one another elect not to get married for a variety of deeply personal and political reasons. It’s estimated that about 70% of couples live together before they get married. While cohabitation has gained cultural acceptance in the United States, the challenge is that the law hasn’t caught up with the times. In some respects, the law makes a symbolic stand in favor of marriage, leaving the choices and wishes of unmarried couples legally vulnerable.
My partner and I are committed to one another, but we don’t need a state-issued piece of paper to define our relationship. We own a home together and are raising our child together. We are both young and healthy. We are fortunate because our families accept our relationship; do we need to consider having an estate plan?
Yes, you probably should consider creating a joint estate plan. Since you own property together, you’ll need to consider the following questions: how is your property titled? How much money did you both put into it? How do you both believe your property is owned? If you have minor children, you’ll want to consider who you would choose to be guardian of your children and what kind of financial trust makes sense for your children. You are very fortunate that your families accept your relationship, but it would not hurt to have a plan in place if that acceptance were shaken or changed by events beyond your control.
I am a business professional and my partner is an artist. We have lived together in a long-term committed relationship for years, but she won’t marry me for philosophical reasons. We have joint bank accounts. We own our home where she has her studio. I made sure that we are both on the title. So, do we need a joint estate plan?
Yes. It sounds like you’ve taken really good steps to better ensure that your property is shared. It may be that many of your assets will pass to one another regardless of whether or not you have a Will. Depending on whether or not you have historically brought more income into your relationship, one question to consider is whether or not you may want to get a life insurance policy to ensure that your partner has enough income to remain in the home if you die, particularly because unlike a married person, she will not be eligible to receive your social security.
If you have further questions or want to arrange a confidential consultation, please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve the solutions you seek.