Myths About Planning for Unmarried Partners

Myth #1: When I die, my partner that I am not married to can continue living in our home.

Fact: You must plan to allow your partner to continue living in your home. Some possible planning options include 1) placing your partner’s name on the deed, 2) executing a beneficiary deed, often called a ladybird deed, giving the home to your partner upon your death, 3) naming your partner as the recipient of your home in your will, or 4) titling your home in your revocable living trust and naming your partner as the recipient of your home or providing for your partner to stay in the home for the remainder of your partner’s life.

If you own your home in your name alone and you fail to exercise any of these options, your home will pass according to state law and not to your partner. If your partner wants to keep living in the home, your partner would have to rent or purchase the home from the beneficiary who received the home through the probate process, if that beneficiary were so willing.

Myth #2: To properly protect my partner, I should just add my partner to the title of all of my accounts and property.

Fact: While adding your partner as a joint owner of your accounts and property may be an easy way to guarantee that your partner will automatically become the sole owner without any involvement by the probate court, this option involves some shortcomings. Because your partner will become the sole owner at your death, your partner gets to choose what will happen to the accounts and property upon their death, not you. You have to trust that your partner will make a decision you would have agreed with. In addition, once your partner becomes a joint owner of the account or property, your partner’s debts become your problem. Should your partner be subject to a creditor claim or lawsuit, your jointly owned account or property could be seized to satisfy any outstanding judgment.

Myth #3: My partner cannot inherit from me if we are not married.

Fact: If you are not married, your partner can inherit from you, but only if you proactively create an estate plan. If you do not do any estate planning, your state’s laws of intestacy statute will determine who will receive your money and property and the amount each will receive. In general, the state scheme would distribute your money and property among various family members who survive you, but perhaps not those you would have chosen. In addition, if the state law governs your estate plan, your partner will receive nothing because the state law does not include unmarried partners in their distribution plan.

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