If you live with your partner, but are not married to them, it is vitally important that you have a will drawn up in order to protect your estate and your partner. Here three ways to protect your estate when you live with an unmarried partner.
#1 Check Your Property Titles
The first thing that you want to do is check the titles to your property. If only your name is listed on the title to your property, it would not go directly to your partner if you pass away. You are going to want to add your partner to your title. You are going to want to hold something that is called "joint tenants with rights of survivorship." This means that if either of you dies, the ownership of the property will pass on to the other partner. This will protect your property from passing onto a blood-related family member, such as your parents or siblings, instead of to your partner.
#2 Draw Up A Will
Even if you change your property titles so that your property will pass to your spouse in the event of your death, you should still draw up a will. Within your will, you should clearly state who all of your property will go to when you pass. Make sure you include details about each individual piece of property, vehicle, and any special items that you own. Spelling out these details in your will can help stop fights between your partner and your family about who gets what in the event of your death.
#3 Check Beneficiaries On Retirement Accounts
Even with a will, don't expect your retirement to go to your spouse. Check who you listed as the beneficiary on each of your wills and make sure that your partner is listed as the beneficiary. If your partner is not listed as the beneficiary on your actual retirement accounts, regardless of what is written in your will, your retirement accounts will have to pass through probate before your partner can access the money in them. This can be a very dire situation if your partner relies on your retirement accounts to meet their daily needs and bills.
You don't have to marry your partner to pass on your belongings to them; however, you do need to take additional legal steps to ensure that your partner gets the property and money that you intended for them and are able to make legal decisions regarding your estate. Make sure that you speak with an attorney at a law firm such as Seiler & Parker PC and work together to draw up the right papers to protect you and your spouse's best interests in the event that one of you passes before the other.