According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, marriage rates throughout the United States have steadily declined since the 1980s.
However, that doesn’t mean there are fewer people in committed relationships.
In fact, studies show that the number of Americans living with an unmarried partner is growing, indicating the public’s shift on perceptions of marriage.
That said, if you are in a committed relationship, protecting your unmarried partner’s rights after death is likely important to you.
Use our guide to learn more about unmarried partners’ rights after death in Texas and what you can do to safeguard them. Then, speak with an estate planning professional at Massingill to discuss your options moving forward.
An Overview of Unmarried Partners’ Rights After Death
If you are unmarried but in a committed relationship in Texas, there are certain steps you may need to take to protect your partner and your legacy in the future. Here are a few important things you should know.
Are There Default Unmarried Couples’ Survivorship Benefits in Texas?
Married couples enjoy a number of legal rights and benefits, including automatic survivorship benefits when their spouse passes away.
A common question many people have is whether unmarried couples enjoy the same types of benefits.
Unfortunately, under Texas law, there are no default survivorship benefits or automatic legal protections granted to unmarried couples.
This means that if you were to pass away unmarried, your partner would not have any automatic legal rights to inherit your property or other assets and benefits.
Property Distribution After Death for Unmarried Couples
Texas law governs how a person’s property will pass if they are not married at the time of their death.
In most cases, if an unmarried person dies intestate, or without a will or other type of estate plan, their property will be distributed to their living descendants in the following order:
- First to their children and their children’s descendants,
- Second to their mother and father equally if there are no surviving children, and
- Last to their siblings and their siblings’ descendants if neither parent is living.
There are a few more scenarios where a person’s property may pass to more remote family members, such as grandparents and other nearest surviving descendants.
However, aside from spouses, there is no mention of significant others or committed life partners. Nevertheless, there are still ways to ensure your partner receives certain benefits and property rights after your passing even if you are not married.
How to Protect an Unmarried Partner’s Rights After Death: Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
Although there are no default property rights and protections for unmarried couples, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have options.
There are active steps you can take to ensure your rights and those of your unmarried partner are protected now and into the future.
One of the best ways to do so is by implementing a thorough estate plan specifying where you want your property to go and whom you want to act on your behalf in case the unexpected happens.
Types of Estate Planning Tools to Implement for Unmarried Couples
An estate plan is a comprehensive legal plan you can create to manage your assets, financial affairs, medical decision-making authority, and a number of other important personal wishes during your lifetime and after your death.
An estate plan is often implemented by individuals and married couples. However, creating an estate plan can be extremely beneficial for unmarried couples as well because it allows you to specify certain decisions that will permit you to avoid the default rules provided under Texas law.
Below are some of the most common legal tools and mechanisms used in many estate plans that unmarried couples can use to better protect their rights and interests:
- Trusts. A trust is a legal agreement that allows you, as the creator, to continue managing your assets during your lifetime while designating beneficiaries and successor trustees to receive and manage your trust assets if you become incapacitated during your lifetime or after you pass away. Through this option, you can specify your partner as a beneficiary or trustee, even if you are not married.
- Wills for unmarried couples. A will is another effective way for unmarried couples to ensure their assets and property are distributed according to their wishes. Through a well-crafted will, you can specify who, including your unmarried partner, is entitled to receive your property and other assets. This allows the administration of your estate to run smoothly in the event of your death.
- Power of attorney for unmarried couples. Another crucial aspect of estate planning is designating who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated during your lifetime and are unable to make such decisions yourself. This is where medical directives and powers of attorney come into play.
If you have questions about whether and to what extent these and other estate planning strategies may be right for you and your partner, speak with the attorneys at Massingill today to discuss your options.
Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in Austin, TX, Today
While there is no requirement to put an estate plan into place, creating one is important for unmarried couples who want to protect their rights and interests beyond the default rules provided under Texas law.
Additionally, a comprehensive estate plan can provide a variety of benefits, such as clarity, peace of mind, and the ability to help avoid disputes in the future.
If you and your partner are looking for ways to protect your rights and ensure the proper passing of your inheritance rights and survivorship benefits, look no further than Massingill.
For years, our Austin, TX, estate planning attorneys have been helping our clients handle complex matters through our simple and collaborative approach.
Give us a call today to discuss your options and steps toward organizing your affairs to protect the people you love now and into the future.