While most Americans who live with a significant other are still getting married, many are choosing not to. For wealthy single people, it often makes sense not to get married, as marriage would result in a higher tax burden. Others simply do not see a need to get married.
The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog recently published an article about the special needs these couples have in estate planning. The article titled "Planning for Cohabiting Couples."
The most important thing to understand is that most laws were developed at a time when couples who lived together were almost always married. Estate planning laws were created with spouses in mind, not live-in partners. Thus, if a person with a spouse passes away without a will, most if not all of the estate will go to the spouse.
However, if a non-married person passes away without a will, nothing will go to the partner. Other laws are similar. For example, a spouse can often get access to health care information that a partner cannot.
What this all means is that cohabiting couples need to have estate plans.
People who live together as a married couple in all but name generally want the same thing for their estates that married people want. For that, an estate plan is needed.
Because all of this can get complicated quickly, be sure to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she can help you ensure that things go smoothly and avoid potential interference from family members when the time comes.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (February 12, 2015) "Planning for Cohabitating Couples."