So you decided to not get married? You know that couple in your circle who have lived together forever, but refuse to tie the knot?
If you just haven’t found the right person for you, that’s one thing. But if you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with someone and you’re still rejecting marriage, you should make sure you know what you’re turning down.
Co-habitating is not the same as being married. Its a form of enjoying the benefits of marriage without getting married. For a committed couple, marriage has a variety of financial and legal advantages over domestic partnership.
Just as tax laws treat the married and unmarried differently, default conditions of state law treat married and unmarried couples differently when it comes to issues like inheritance, survivorship, and the legal power for one member of a committed-but-unwed couple to make decisions or take actions for the other. These issues can be handled with the right estate planning paperwork or an official domestic partnership in some states, but many can’t.
“You are either married or you’re not.”
We recently had a case come in where one member of a committed unwed couple unexpectedly suffered a major medical emergency (and perished only days later). During her partner’s time in hospital, as he declined and died, a chemically addled, ne’er-do-well sibling showed up, and told medical staff to exclude our client. She couldn’t get in to so much as hold his hand. She was also left without any inheritance. There was little we could do to help, especially about the helpless dismay at being excluded from his final hours.
Virginia law provides virtually zero default benefit to either member of an unwed couple simply based on their relationship and commitment to each other. Therefore, unwed couples, even more than married folk, need a Will, a Power of Attorney, and an Advance Medical Directive.
And you have to have those documents in place BEFORE you need them.
Need a hand with that? We can help! Virginia Beach Law Group is an Estate Planning law firm serving Virginia Beach and throughout Virginia for many years.