Relationships are magnificent things. Some couples will wind up getting married, whereas others will choose to just be together, committing themselves to a “married” lifestyle. For those couples that have committed to a “married” lifestyle without the actual marriage you need to know this: If your significant other passes away, they have no spousal rights, even if you’ve been together for 30 years. This includes rights to reside in your home, to have your personal property, or to inherit from your estate.

Common Law Marriage? Fact or Fiction?

Some couples may assume they have a common law marriage. Common law marriage is when a couple lives together for a long period of time and holds themselves out to their friends, family and community as being married. There is no formal ceremony or marriage license that’s on record, rather, the marriage must be proved by evidence of these items. What you might not know, is that common law marriage has been abolished in Michigan since 1957 and Ohio since October 10, 1991. As such, even if you can prove these items, it is irrelevant.  In fact, only ten states in the country still allow common law marriages to be established.

When couples who live together in a “married” setting have chosen not to obtain a marriage license, and marriage by common law is not obtainable, this can lead to potential trouble down the road. One example is how they may inherit nothing from their recently departed significant other.

My Longtime Partner and I aren’t Married, what Happens?

When an individual passes away, and no will exists, the court will distribute the assets of the deceased according to statute. Without a marriage license, the court cannot recognize a surviving significant other as a surviving spouse, or in this case, a beneficiary of the deceased. As such, he or she will not inherit anything and are at the mercy of the legal beneficiaries under the statutes.

This is why when it comes to issues such as this, we highly recommend that you prepare a will. A great example of how someone in a long-term relationship without marriage was able to protect his significant other was Queen front-man Freddie Mercury. The rock icon was in a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, who he left his $100 million estate for, as well as his mansion in London.

Despite Mercury acknowledging their relationship for many years, had he not drafted the will,, Austin would not have inherited anything from his estate. Writing a will formalizes what everyone gets according to you. Rather than statutes controlling distribution, the Will that you create dictates the distribution of assets to your selected beneficiaries.

How We can Help!

When it comes to estate planning and writing wills, our team at The Probate ProSM has the experience to assist you. With knowledge in estate planning, as well as Elder Law, Veterans Administration Benefits and Special Needs Trust Preparation, we’ve got a team of attorneys making sure everyone in your life is taken into account. If you or someone you know may need quality legal services, call us today at 1-(877)-YOUR-FIRM.